Music Teachers

Member, Blog Editor and Teacher Alina Celeste. Photo by Rachael Waring
Member, Blog Editor and Teacher Alina Celeste. Photo by Rachael Waring

From the List-serve come three reflections on music teachers who have made a difference in the lives of members Alina Celeste, Joanie Calem, and Kim Wallach.

“This time of year always gets me thinking of the people in my life who have mattered. The ones who believed in me, supported me, and pushed me to be better than I am. These are the people who have made me what I am today. I am lucky to still know many of them, but some have been lost along the way.

Dr. Ewing was my elementary school music teacher, and my favorite part of every week. He was not a warm and fuzzy guy. He was strict and demanding. He was funny, inspiring and honest. My elementary school chorus, under his guidance, was one of the best in the state. I still sing many of the songs he taught me, with my students, my family, and even when I’m alone.

In high school, I ran into him at the supermarket, and it changed my life.  He suggested that I attend a special camp at the University of Miami for choral singing. He said I was talented enough for it though it was generally for seniors (I was a sophomore), and that he would sponsor me.  That camp was the first time I understood that I could pursue music for the rest of my life. Many years after that, I ran into him again, and again at the Supermarket! I was a music teacher for elementary school. I told him he was a big part of the choices I had made, that I taught several of the songs I had learned from him. We made a date to meet for coffee, but he passed away only two weeks later from a sudden illness.  There was no funeral, according to his wishes. He said that he had played at enough funerals in his life, and didn’t want another. I suppose in his case, there was no need for a memorial, because every time I sing one of his songs, I am remembering him, honoring him and missing him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                             – Alina Celeste

“My fourth grade teacher played the guitar, and at the end of every day she would pull it out and gather us at the rug, and sing Blowin’ In The Wind, and Follow the Drinking Gourd, and Five Hundred Miles, and We Shall Overcome, and Where Have All the Flowers Gone, etc…..boy did she have an impact on me!

There was also my second piano teacher, who was a tremendous relief after the first piano teacher who would smack my hands anytime I made a mistake!  My second piano teacher turned me on to Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition, and suddenly I realized that classical music could actually mean something.  And she considered jazz and rock and roll totally legitimate forms of piano playing.  She also became a role model for me when I began teaching piano, because she always had something positive to say, no matter what a piece sounded like.

And then there was my solfeggio teacher in my junior year of high school in Israel, who taught me that I actually could hear those diminished ninth chords…..and cheered when I came back to study with her in university while I pregnant with my first kid, because she knew that my daughter would have incredible hearing from being exposed to week after week of intense music classes in utero….and she was right….All amazing wonderful people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      – Joanie Calem

“I am thinking of my first piano teacher – also my oboe teacher – Rev. George White, who thought I might be better at piano than oboe.  When I memorized faster than learning to read music, he had me write a new piece, so that I would learn to read music by writing it.  He smoked a pipe which we called “the Hazard” and was utterly supportive of me even after he stopped teaching private lessons.  He sent me roses on my 16th birthday, and was so encouraging when I started playing guitar and singing.

I also (like Joanie) had a fourth grade teacher, Miss Talien, who played guitar, but it was a performing trio at the Jersey Shore, the Wharf Rats, that permanently enthralled me when I was 12.  I spent every possible moment listening to them sing and joke with the audience, making us laugh and cry and laugh again.  That was it for me.”                                                                                                                                                               – Kim Wallach




  1. I loved waking up to this blog piece. It’s beautifully written (by all!). It’s proven true for me that a single teacher can change a life, and reminds me why spending time helping to support the work that my CMN friends do really matters in the world!

  2. Alina, did you happen to go to Kenwood elementary in Miami, FL? I too, very fondly remember my music and chorus teacher, Dr Ewing, but could not remember his first name and stumbled upon this blog trying to look it up. He sent me to the governor’s honors choir one summer at the University of Miami. I wish I had gotten the chance to run into him again…

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