The Early Years

It’s often been said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” I had a great piano teacher.

I was three when Mom bought me the toy piano in the photo (that’s Peanuts our dog). That toy piano came after some heavy negotiating and a few tears at the Bullocks Wilshire department store.

For the first few years of my life my Mom, Grandma and I lived in an fourplex on the corner of Bloomfield and Cahuenga Blvd in North Hollywood. Mom had built it and rented out the three additional units.

One day there was knock on the door and when Mom answered it, I heard the voice of an elderly man saying, “We saw your For Rent sign out front and are interested. My wife and I have just moved down from Salt Lake City and wish to retire here in Los Angeles.”

When Mom asked for references he replied, “Well, I was dean of the music department of the University of Utah for many years.”

Little did I know that he would become my first piano teacher and mentor. His name was Professor Thomas Giles.

I would sit in front of the TV all day long playing that toy piano easily picking out melodies from the game shows and commercials. Professor Giles came over for a visit one day and saw me doing this. He said to Mom, “Katherine I think your son has a real gift, let me give him a few piano lessons and see how he does.”

He encouraged me to not only read the notes on the page but to go further and improvise around them. That opened up a whole new world for me.

When I was four and a half years old I gave my first recital. He saw the gift I had and he nourished it up till the end. He passed away when I was eleven…

I can still hear his voice today saying, “Keep going Richard, great job!” He made learning music an adventure.