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When I was adopted at age five, I went from being “nobody’s child” to being the daughter of an esteemed college professor and his wife. My brother Johnny and I were given every advantage that my hard-working parents could afford. Looking back across the decades, I feet that though we weren’t extremely wealthy, the cultural advantages of growing up in such a family were great. Mine was a “rags to riches” story, and though my adoptive parents, Richard and Reva, passed away decades ago, hardly a week goes by that I don’t think of them. I’m grateful for having been featured on my Dad’s “book TV” program at the University of North Carolina, for dance and drama lessons, and most of all, for piano lessons.

Because I loved playing the piano, I fully intended to continue lessons. Life, however, took me in other directions. It took me away from piano playing. I became the mother of two sons, and I began to devote time and energy to marathon running. Training involved running 30 to 80 miles a week, leaving no time to practice piano. I felt that without practice, I was wasting my piano teacher’s time. On the afternoon of what would be my last lesson, I had to tell Mrs. McHugh that I was quitting.

Because I had never stopped loving piano music, it’s been particularly joyous to take a music history course. from my friend and neighbor Fred Kronacher. Fred is an accomplished pianist and dedicated teacher. He is author of a fascinating memoir: Piano Variations~ A Musical Odyssey of Self Discovery. (More about that later.) He also teaches classes on music history and appreciation. Last Sunday’s class on the Baroque Era was splendid. To a group of a dozen, Fred illuminated musical highlights of Scarlotti, Handel and Bach, all of whom were born in 1685. Fred’s classes are entertaining as well as illuminating. He plays the piano throughout; He also plays cd recordings. We learn about the life and times of the Italian and German musical greats of the Baroque Era. It is a delicious medley.

Before our break, we are treated to a recital by one of his star pupils, a seven-year-old Chinese student named Stephanie. Dressed in a baby blue kimono, the poised young girl treats us to “Plum Blossoms.” After the mini-concert, we break for refreshments.. The treat of this afternoon, in addition to black coffee, is exquisite bread pudding. Hearkening back to the European influences in his life, virtuoso Kronacher is also an superb baker.

Fred’s memoir Piano Variations is great fun to read. It comprises vignettes about his piano students, mostly children. The stories of their challenges and triumphs are engaging, as varied as the young students themselves. In the introductory chapter, Fred says “To light the lamp in the soul of one’s neighbor is a privilege not given to everyone. A good teacher, once himself ignited, may pass the flame to another.” If I’d had him as a teacher during my formative years, I know that despite life’s interruptions, I would still be playing the piano.

If one cannot be a musician, perhaps the next best thing is being an appreciator of music. If you live in Santa Fe or Albuquerque, please be advised that Mr. Kronacher is accepting new piano students. For music aficionados, there will be opportunities to hear him lecturing before selected operas this summer at Santa Fe Opera. In August, he will be presenting a seminar on all five operas of the 2018 season.
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Anyone interested in learning more about this Santa Fe musician and teacher, feel free to contact him at fredkpiano@gmail.com

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Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for musings on adoption and life.

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