I’m pleased to launch the first of my Students of Adult Piano Lessons Profiles, a series which will appear in an ongoing basis in this GRAND PIANO PASSION™ blog. Our first student of adult piano lessons is Fraidel Leah Kletter who, largely self-taught for her first sixteen years, has an inspiring story about her change of life.
Name: Fraidel Leah (Fern) Kletter
Profession: Attorney researcher-writer for Westlaw Publishers
Favorite Piano Music: from Bach to Bartok
Aspirational Piano Music: Chopin’s B minor Scherzo
Age Began the Piano: 4 or 5 (trying to teach myself)
Tell us about your experiences studying the piano during your childhood.
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to play the piano. I would try to figure out how to play the piano using my Mom’s John Thompson piano course books. I used to think the fingering meant the notes on the keyboard – it worked pretty well for the right hand in Book 1, but not at all for the left hand! Some interesting pieces emerged! Finally, in the fifth grade, I had a teacher for half a year. Because it was too expensive to continue the lessons, I played on my own, sometimes six hours a day. I purchased a very large collection of the classical piano music repertoire and composed some short compositions. In high school, I played the First Movement of Schumann’s Piano Concerto (in A-minor, Opus 54) with my high school orchestra. We had a great time with it!
What about your experiences with adult piano lessons?
In college, I majored in history and minored in piano, but I got away from the piano when I went to law school. Eventually I came back to it when I was working as an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia. I found a wonderful teacher (who had studied with Leon Fleischer). But it wasn’t until I went to Israel, where I lived for five years, that I really returned to the piano. I studied with a very good teacher (who had studied at Curtis). When I returned to America, I decided that music had to be an integral part of my life. My Westlaw job, which had begun in Israel, gave me the flexibility to pursue my dream.
I studied Dalcroze (improvisation, eurythmics, and soflege), at the recommendation of a friend who is a professional pianist, for one intensive summer and two semesters at the Lucy Moses School in New York. Then I realized that I wanted to teach piano – that this was what I truly wanted to do! I discovered a piano pedagogy certificate program at Westminster Choir College. My class was a mixture of seasoned teachers and persons like myself, who had been immersed in a different career, but now wanted to teach piano either in addition to or instead of their career. I completed the program just this last spring.
I learned so much – not just about teaching, but also about becoming a better pianist. For example, Rita Shklar, our theory teacher, emphasized that all of the emotion one is putting into the piece should go into the fingers, rather than overdoing facial expressions or body movements. Rita is truly an artist! Now that I have an apartment in Passaic, I forward to starting to teach.
What advice do you have for others considering adult piano lessons?
It is never ever too late for anyone to pursue their passion — the only limitations are those we place on ourselves. I am deeply grateful to G-d for the gift of music, and this is just the beginning of my journey!