Monday, June 7, 2010

Teacher's dream

The other day on my Leonard Pennario Web log I wrote about a terrific garage sale find. It was a copy of his historic "Pictures at an Exhibition," signed by his teacher, Laura Kelsey.

That is a picture of the two of them together in a rare and ancient clip. Miss Kelsey must have been in heaven. A student like Pennario is like hitting the jackpot. You just cannot believe it.

Here is the album Laura Kelsey signed.

Pennario spent his childhood in Buffalo and throughout his life he kept up his ties to our town. So once in a while a treasure like this turns up. Sometimes sources turn up at garage sales too! My friend Joey Giambra, the retired police detective, found Pennario's goddaughter at a garage sale. He heard Pennario's name mentioned and made inquiries and now this woman is in the book.

Laura Kelsey was legend in Buffalo. A lot of distinguished people studied with her when they were kids, either at the Community Music School or her studio on Norwood Avenue. Pennario thought she was an excellent teacher and so do other people who studied with her and have contacted me since I have been working on this book.

I am kind of proud of Pennario for coming from out-of-the-way Buffalo where no one had New York connections. It seems to me that pianists' reputations sometimes ride a little too much on who their teachers were. You read, over and over and over: "He studied with so-and-so who studied with so-and-so who studied with so-and-so who studied with so-and-so who studied with Beethoven."

Hence, the reasoning goes, this pianist is Beethoven's artistic heir.

It is a romantic way of thinking but there is some flaw in that logic, you know?

It does not necessarily mean this pianist is the best of the best. It does mean that he or she was put on the fast track from the word go. Sure, the pianist was extremely talented, but he was also lucky. In other words: Let's hear the music, and then we will judge.

Pennario started out on the Lower West Side in off-the-beaten-track Buffalo, with Miss Laura Kelsey.

I like that about him.

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