Maura Berman says she was jealous of her best friend’s piano. So her mother bought her a one and found her a teacher through Julliard. Maura was 7 years old and she was on her way to a lifetime of music. By the 10th grade, it was clear that Maura had gotten all she could from her first teacher Rose Tanner who told her she needed to go higher. The next natural step higher was her acceptance into the Julliard preparatory division with Saturdays for main instrument and theory and twice-yearly auditions to remain in the program. She knew she wanted to perform or teach, so high-school social life gave way to practice four hours a day.
Then Oberlin Conservatory and studying with a list of the greats, pedagogy classes, and teaching students who needed piano proficiency to graduate (yes, she watched 12 hands on 6 uprights at once as she meandered through the room), and marriage and travel and children and ongoing expanse of her talent. To listen to Maura talk about the love involved in good teaching is a teaching all its own. What she wants for her students is simply to learn to love music, and she brings to them the double power of enormous patience and a good syllabus because playing well takes more than knowing what is on the page; theory is important.
She knows that music is a language all its own, and starts off telling her young students they are learning more than music, they are learning a foreign language, but get a box of Kleenex because it is the emotional reasons she gives them that make her stand out as a truly exceptional teacher. The details of her life are complicated, punctuated by her laughter, so best heard in her own voice. As if musical accomplishment at her level were not enough, she paints, writes poetry, has composed choir pieces and a piano sonata. And, even all that is the tip, as they say, of the iceberg.
Letters? She has them from her brother and father and has quite a bit to say about what the handwriting does to bring these two men into her presence. She talks about what is happening with the disappearance of cursive. Oh, for the joy and intelligence of all she says, do listen. What might her own love letters be at this stage of her life? Meaningful to say the least. So, I repeat, just listen.