I am glad our paths have crossed. Let’s reminisce. How did we meet? School? Band? Church, youth group, handbells or choir? Did we meet at a conference? Were you a subscriber to a publication or did you come to one of my concerts? Maybe you have one of my books. Are you (were you) one of my private or class students? Did our kids go to school together? Perhaps you are among my professional musician friends. Are you a fellow lover of history? Maybe we’ve never met in person, but connected online. No matter how we met, you are important to me. Would you please add a memory we share? (Appropriate photos are welcome, too!)
Allison Ast: Hey there! I miss our in person lessons because your attitude is so sassy and easy-going. You always call me out if I haven’t practiced and you are very honest with me when you give me feedback on things. I remember how nervous I was to sing “The End of the World” and how you told me “It isn’t really the end of the world” and encouraged me to do better which I did. You are always there to listen when I have something to ask advice on and you constantly show me by example how hard work pays off. I wanted to thank you for welcoming me into your church choir and accompanying me for the Bickerdyke Day reenactment. I will remember those times for life! I hope I can keep you laughing each lesson because I know I can say or do the most ridiculous things and I love our lesson time!
Gail: I’m glad we are able to continue your voice and piano lessons through Skype! Technology can be pretty cool, huh. I look forward to the times when you *are* in town so we can get together for an ‘in person’ lesson, too. Keep practicing, kiddo!
Blayne Kohl: My 4 year old son just completed the Wunderkeys program and he loved it. He was so excited to start lessons and this was the perfect way to do it. We would come home and he would be humming/singing all the songs and talking about his finger friends. We would sit and practice together and I was amazed at how well he was retaining all of the information. It was a great program to start and I am so glad we did!
Gail: He is a great little guy. The time you take to help him between lessons really makes a big difference. At every lesson, I know he will play the songs and do all the requested work. But before he leaves, he will *always* ask if we can play a piano game – and we usually do!
Brooke Barron: I first met Gail as a child in little bitty Daingerfield, Tx. She did private lessons in her home at the time and taught me from scratch how to read and play music. Bits of those lessons I was able to teach my own child on my parents piano many, many years later.A few fond memories:
*I remember she always had soft peppermints to eat after our lesson.
*I read music but also played a lot “by ear” so when we’d start a new song I’d tell her great I thought it was and ask her to play it for me, hehe. That way I learned it much easier – though she quickly caught on to my tricky BS and would refuse to play it until I’d mastered it.
*I loved to play my pieces while she’d jump in and improvise a duet if one wasn’t already provided. I always thought it was magical how the piece would become so “big” with both of us playing.
*My sister and I enjoyed playing tag or games with her girls while she and my mom would visit. However, as I think of it now, I imagine my fear of spiders probably started from crashing through a HUGE spider web while playing tag with the girls in her yard and later finding the GIGANTIC spider clinging to my elbow – bleh. Makes me cringe now thinking about it, lol.
Wish we could have kept it up – I miss playing and miss you Gail. PS: It wasn’t all fun – can you believe she expected me to practice? EVERYDAY?! UGH, the nerve, really…hahaha
Gail: All fun memories, Brooke! I think about the Christmas recital we did at your house, a “Friends and Family Christmas” when each student got someone else to play, sing, act, whatever, along with them. 🙂
Lisa Coleman: I will always remember that Christmas recital! The piano Brooke mentioned using to teach her children was the same electronic baby grand as we had at the recital so many years ago! I have always been glad that we met you and that you were a part of our lives. You are truly a special lady!
Gail: Thanks, Lisa. It’s hard to imagine how long ago that recital was. We’ve both had amazing journeys.
Looking Glasses: Hi Gail. We’ve never met and probably won’t on this side. I’m from Australia and followed your link here. I love your blog and look forward to reading more.
Gail: Hi! Glad you are enjoying the site. Making a new friend always brings a smile — thanks for brightening my day!
Liz Helfenberger: I loved it when Gail showed me the organ in her church during one of my piano lessons. It was the first time I’d ever seen an organ up close and I had a blast playing around with it and changing the knobs to produce different sounds. Seeing how the organ worked in general and checking out the upstairs room with all the pipes was incredible. I also had fun playing for her church during one of the services. I’m always nervous playing in front of a large group of people, but the atmosphere was very welcoming and the experience was ultimately very enjoyable. The same can be said for my day-to-day lessons. I never thought I would look forward to practicing every day or learn as much as I have in the time Gail’s been my teacher. There’s also a degree of freedom I get when it comes to selecting the music, which I never got from past piano teachers. Thanks for everything, Gail. You will be missed! 🙂
Gail: Liz, your progress this year has been absolutely amazing. You have gone from just reading the notes (and you have always been a great sight reader!) to really making music. It has been a delight to hear your personality come through in the songs you choose, as well as how beautifully you play them. I think we have found a pretty good balance between the songs you select and the ones I think you need to know. 😉 I’m looking forward to hearing how you continue to make music a part of your life in the years to come.
Amber Swedoski: Oh my gosh, now that I have a free chance, I don’t even know where to start. I am one of Gail’s former students from northeast Texas. From the upstairs apartment/music room, to the new house and awesome music room that I remember her loving so much (of course, Gail puts her whole heart into anything she does), to the store, playing everywhere we had the chance…..so many great memories! Nursing home recitals, Wildflower Trails parades, and of course Gatsby’s!! Band concert with you and Ronnie dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Laura and Lisa dressed up elves (I still have that pic somewhere). You and Ronnie made a great team when playing together and were always so fun to watch! I so remember the Hughes Springs Community Band that you even got my Mom involved in (making me have to give up claim to her flute for a bit, lol). It was so interesting to see the adults show off their musical talent that we kids mostly knew nothing about. Thinking back now, there was always lots of laughter at those practices. Every time we performed for the nursing home residents, they were always so very thankful. Their smiles and sweet words made it worth it, even if I felt embarrassed for having praise heaped on me for doing such a small thing (and not very well to my own ears, lol). You pushed me when I sure didn’t want to practice and I am very thankful for that. I regret that I didn’t work out my priorities better so that I could do it all, continuing with piano on top of everything else, and so wish you lived close so that my own kiddos could take lessons. I know for a fact they would love you as much as I do…..and probably drive you just as crazy as I did. I always enjoyed watching you perform and was in awe of how talented you are…..and knowing in the back of my mind that I would never be as good. To anyone considering taking lessons, or having their child take lessons with Gail…..you can’t go wrong!! She is the absolute best, and not only with how talented she is, but as a teacher with her genuine love and devotion to each student.
Gail: Amber, without a doubt you were one of the more ‘challenging’ students to get to practice — but ALWAYS did a fantastic job when you did! Wildflower Trails, using keyboards on a parade float then later playing on stage, was an annual highlight for all of us. You all certainly got a lot of practical experience on how to perform in front of people. Every time we went somewhere to play, you got better and better at it, more relaxed, more poised. I, too, wish we lived closer together. Gather up the family and come visit sometime!
Amber: Lol, ‘challenging’ is being very, very nice. I was a pill and I know it. I cannot say “Thank You” enough for putting up with me. That “no practice” streak lives on….my oldest is the same way with regards to her flute. Every time I complain to her, it makes me think of all the times that you nailed me for not practicing and I feel so bad for giving you such a hard time. Then I laugh because you dealt with it so well and I am getting payback for doing so to you.Like
Gail: What comes around…..
Steph Cameron-Line: I spent a lot of time with Gail in band at Lombard Junior High School and GHS. I knew her as a trumpet player and had forgotten that she played the organ as we entered the auditorium. I’m looking forward to her being back in the ‘Burg and can’t wait to see with God has planned for her!
Gail: Our Lombard days seem like a long time ago. Oh wait — it WAS a long time ago!! Can you still march an accurate 8 to 5? I would bet that most of us who went to Virginia Beach still can…or at least come mighty close. I moved from Galesburg to Texas in 1975. As a good friend put it, I have been “deployed too long” and now it’s time for me to “return to base.” I like that.
Donna Linnane: I used to work out at a fitness center here on Padre Island (Corpus Christi, Texas), and there was this quiet but funny guy named Rick in our class. One day I was whining about the fact that we had left the church where I had participated with a great praise team, and I really missed the music. Rick said I should come to his church and sing with the choir. After a short exchange, he assured me it was okay to show up on Sunday morning. I PROMISE you I asked him to make sure you were expecting me! But no… in I walk, all confident, and everybody looks at me like I’m about to ask for money! But you were so gracious – after I explained my presence, I offered to stand behind you and sing so you could hear me as the choir warmed up, so you could run me out if I didn’t fit. I ended up staying, and as I left the church, I heard two ladies in the parking lot: “Who was that singing in the choir?” “I dunno, she just walked in off the street!” Hilarious!
Gail: It certainly was an unusual beginning to what turned out to be a great friendship and some marvelous music making. Once I heard your voice, there was absolutely no way I was going to let you go anywhere else to sing. 🙂 Your singing is one among many wonderful talents you have been given. I’m kind of partial to your song writing, too. “Somebody’s Been Praying for Me”
Donna Linnane: One more story – Lent was approaching, and you were planning the music, as always. I was hanging around bugging you as I did as frequently as possible, and you shocked me by asking me to sing a song I’d never heard of for Palm Sunday. You played a recording of it, and I burst into tears before it was halfway through, because the words were so moving. “I can’t sing that; I can’t get through it!”, I protested. But you gave me an enormous gift that day. You said something to the order of, “Yes you can. I know you can.” And you assigned that song to me. Your encouragement and confidence in me brought me to a new level in my singing. It also gave me a song that I could offer every spring, and now I’ve sung it at several different churches and spiritual retreats. I remember you and your wonderful way of stretching me (OW! Owowowowowow – OH! Ooooh!) every time I sing it. (That parenthetical business is supposed to illustrate the transition from discomfort to delight.)
Gail: You gave me a gift that day, too. You gave me your trust. It takes a lot of confidence to sing (especially solo sing) in front of people. Sometimes, until the confidence comes from within, it can be bolstered by those around you who can see your giftedness.
Ronnie Johnson: We were at a casual performance of Gail’s students at Gatsby’s Pizza. At an intermission for the students, Gail played a keyboard version of “drop the needle”!! She played brief excerpts of various songs–we had to “Name the Tune.” One of hardest for most participants to get right, was about the ONLY one I knew–“Blazing Saddles”!! With pizza, music and games– we all had fun !! Thanks, Gail!!
Gail: Those were fun days. Every 6 weeks or so, I would take the students (children and adults) somewhere in the community to play for anyone who wanted to listen. We played at every festival I could find, for several nursing homes and more, but the hands down favorite was playing at Gatsby’s Pizza. Janet Joudah was wonderful to us! Lots of laughter and music…and good pizza, too!
Ronnie Johnson: My son, Carey, and I went to see Gail in their upstairs apartment/studio. As Gail and I were talking about music/Community Band, we heard some strange noises–as in–plunk !! plunk !! bam !! bam !! Crunch !! Immediately, I knew Carey had dropped my alto sax down the flight of stairs !! With each sound I was hoping to hear silence–silence that did not happen until my sax was at the bottom of the stairs !! Several broken pieces of the sax were found in a trail down the stairs !! I thought I held my cool rather well..my son survived !!
Gail: Ouch! I had forgotten about that, but as I was reading your comment I found myself cringing with each *plunk* — just as I did when it happened. Yes, you handled it much more calmly than I would have. One of my favorite memories is the year we dressed up and made some appearances around town, you as a saxophone playing Santa Claus and me as the baritone playing Mrs. Claus. Kids as well as adults seemed a bit confused and surprised to find out that the Claus’ played instruments, especially when we joined the band for their Christmas concert. 🙂
Ronnie Johnson: Attending one of her first football games after moving to Hughes Springs, Texas, I sat by Gail to “welcome” her to the community-and acquaint her with the festivites. The high school band began to play a song which caught Gail’s attention–to which she proclaimed with a bit of surprise –That’s “The Horse” !!! Gail had played this song years before in Illinois and was surprised that “way down here” in East Texas, our band was playing the same song !! It had not occurred to Gail that the Hughes Springs mascot–was– the Mustangs !!
Gail: Okay — now this time you are only mostly right. You are correct on calling me out for not catching on to the Mustangs and the song “The Horse.” Serious DUH. My surprise at hearing the song, however, was not only because of the *distance* but because of the *years*. I am such a band nerd — a trumpet playing band nerd at that — and seriously loved playing that song. Just so ya know, up until my face-plant-on-asphalt a few years ago, I still played the trumpet parts to “The Horse,” “The William Tell Overture,” and “Basin Street Blues.” 🙂
Klayre Marie: I loved singing and practicing with Gail because I got to practice with my Bestfriend and it was fun to sing with her and perform it in front of everyone 🙂 I loved Gail’s bubbly and outgoing personality and going and practicing with her always put me in a good mood 🙂 I have great memories there and hope to go back soon! 🙂
Gail: Klayre, whenever someone arrives late for their lesson — and it happens quite often — and they start off by telling me (as if I didn’t already know!) “I’m late!’ wanna guess who and what song I think about? 🙂
Newell Hardy: I have known Gail for close to twenty years. During that time, I have seen Gail in various roles, all with the common thread of music. We have been personal friends, as well as business associates. She is one of the most thoughtful, caring persons I know. Her life revolves around others, in helping and giving care where ever there is a need.I first met Gail when she was an artist anclinician for Technics Musical Instruments. At Technics, she performed on the world-famous Technics Organs and Digital Pianos, entertaining many folks over the years. She always seemed to dazzle them with her talent and skills on the organ and piano. She also conducted workshop and training sessions to help others to learn the features and operation of these hi-tech instruments. I also worked alongside Gail when she took positions in sales of pianos and organs, where she was very successful in producing business for the retail businesses where she worked.If that isn’t enough, I have also seen Gail in her role as a teacher, one of her most enduring passions. She has taught piano and organ lessons in music stores and in her own studios, both to groups and to individuals for many years, throughout her professional life. She has shared her talent guiding adults, teenagers, and children as they yearned to learn to play a keyboard instrument. Her students were rewarded with one of the finest teachers one could hope to find. It has been my pleasure to know and associate with Gail. She blesses all whose lives cross her path.
Gail: Well, golly, Newell – thank you! Yeah, there are a few years (and dinners at Outback Steakhouse) in our past. One of my regrets is that I have not yet had the opportunity to hear you, in person, perform with your band. Next time we can get together, bring something with strings on it and let’s play!
Hannah Aslesen: Gail has helped the youth in my church tremendously. I remember meeting her for the first time and thinking this will be fun! choir has been a great experience for me and has helped me open up and make new friends. Besides choir, Gail has given me the opportunity to learn the organ which has been another thing I’ve enjoyed. Thank you Gail!
Gail: You are welcome, Hannah! I was so excited that you wanted to be part of youth choir AND the adult choir. YEAH!!! We did have fun, for sure. Not only did we have a great time singing, but how about us learning American Sign Language to “More Than Amazing”?!?!?! I have some more music for your organ lessons (at church). See you soon!!!
Kari Readel: I will never forget the first time we met! It was at First Presbyterian Church in Ottumwa. I knew the impact of meeting each other would change things for us in an amazing way, but it has surpassed that and then some. 🙂 Seeing you work with the choir was quite an experience. You were a fun director, yet got us to work really hard without even knowing it! Do you remember Agnus Dei?! Wow…what an undertaking for you, yet it came together beautifully and was a highlight production for the church. It was also a pivotal point in our joint musical career. I started accompanying for you not long after that and I learned so much…more than I ever thought possible to learn from one person! I also played handbells under your direction for a few years and despite having previously played, I again learned many new things. You then started teaching me organ and helped me progress fast enough that I was soon filling in when you were away! Not only did you help my musicianship grow, you helped my faith and spirituality blossom. God always places the right people in our path at the right time, and He could not have blessed me with a better person at what was a difficult time for me.
You are an amazing director and put so much passion and time into everything you do. Yeah, you have your quirks and get picky about certain things, but you are willing to compromise, and in the end it’s for the greater good of the music and message you are trying to convey. You also create a close bond with those you work with and impact them in so many different ways. You helped me break out of my shell, and for that I will always be grateful! Anyone would be lucky to have you as a director or music teacher. I only wish I could’ve been under your direction for a longer period of time.
I can’t end this without mentioning our amazing duets!! 🙂 I am so honored to be your duet partner!! You are an extraordinary musician and make music and practicing fun; not a chore. You help make music speak to people, and that’s not something many people take the time to do. While you’re moving on to newer things, I know this friendship will always remain. You are one of a kind Gail. And anyone interested in music, or wanting to share their talents would be lucky to learn or be under your direction!Love,
Your accompanist and duet partner!
Gail: Kari, one of the initial challenges of the Michael W. Smith Agnus Dei was finding the right *someone* for the piano part. Ann suggested you, and I will confess I was nervous about giving such a critical role to someone I did not know AND who I had never heard play AND was away at school and therefore not available for all the rehearsals. Then we met, I heard you sightread…and the rest, as they say, is history! Our years of working together have certainly paid off. I like the way Laura puts it: when we make music together, we “share a brain”. I still secretly smile whenever we are playing duets, are seated in such a way that we cannot see each other, and still manage to perfectly land entrances together 🙂 Such fun! Thanks for the music and the giggles, past, present and future!