Great piano teachers: Franz Liszt, Robert Hamilton, and … Teresa

There are two reasons we wanted to welcome you with Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.” First, we think it’s stunningly, vastly beautiful. And second, we want to honor two of the teachers who are most loved by us (and also the teachers you love the most)! (We intend to rhapsodize about such teachers… <smile>)

Franz Liszt is one of our two famous great-great-great-great grandteachers. One thing about terrific teachers … they have a way of making comments that are … memorable. This is almost always a good thing, a Blessing. But not always.

Our piano teacher, Robert Hamilton, the first of the two teachers we wish to honor here, is one of the world’s most respected and honored pianists and teachers. He has a profound ability to convey ideas in utterly unforgettable ways, so he seldom has to make the same point twice. 98 or 99% of the time, we wouldn’t have it any other way! But then there was the comment he made about two months ago… For about the previous two months, I had been working on Brahms’ wonderful “Variations on a Theme by Paganini.” I had finally gotten it to a point at which I felt ready to play it for Mr. Hamilton. When I finished playing the 14th (and final) variation, Mr. Hamilton said, “Well, Chris, you just played more wrong notes than you’ve played since I first met you!” (Like I said, an ability to be memorable. Ouch. Note to myself: Don’t ever let that happen again! Hmmm… I’ll have to remember to ask him if he remembers that he first met me when I was about eight years old… <smile>)

It’s fun to wander off into fantasy, and think about the possibility that Franz Liszt said spectacularly memorable things to his students, and that those students passed along those ideas to their students, and so on down through the years, until those ideas were conveyed to us! Perhaps those echoes through time have even had an impact on the “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” which you just heard…

But when we think of truly great, great, great, great teachers, even grand teachers, and the impact they have on our lives (not just the way in which we play music)… Well, there’s most definitely Robert Hamilton. And also, there’s Teresa. We hope that you’ll have a chance to meet her, and to get to know her … we know you would be incredibly Blessed to have that happen, as we have been. Teresa has for many years taught piano to “the babies,” the younger music students. One evening, almost a year ago, Teresa and her husband, Josh, who is also a wonderful piano teacher, with special gifts to the jazz side of the musical universe, wandered into a place we happened to be playing. (We’ve played there about six times a month for a little over a year.) When we first saw her, she looked simply terrible. Her eyes were so sunken, and her skin was to the ashen side. Her weight had reduced to about 94 pounds. She has cancer, you see, and when we met her, she was in Stage Four (there is no Stage Five).

Since that first evening, she and Josh have come to listen almost every time we’ve played. Teresa truly loves music … she responds to it in a profound way. Music can be deeply healing, of course, and in Teresa’s case, the impact is often almost startlingly dramatic. As she listens, her color returns to normal, and her strength and energy grow. And, in short order, she’s walking through the (very informal!) venue, seeking out someone to talk with, to encourage, and to serve. She’s encouraged us, among many others of the approximately 350 “regulars,” along with their friends and families, who come to our evenings. The venue has become quite a community gathering place … it draws a large age range, from very young to very elderly, and many come who have been dealing with difficult issues concerning their health, death of a spouse, etc. People are drawn to the healing which flows from Grace through music, but are also uplifted and encouraged by the Grace which flows through Teresa, through her loving presence, her courage, her determination to create joy in her life, no matter what her circumstances, and the loving care she demonstrates for others. She may have had “a bad week” (a phrase we’ve heard waaay too many times with regard to her health), but she consistently finds a way to convey a deep, loving kindness to those around her. She may have been awake all night, often screaming in pain (her body doesn’t tolerate pain meds, so she’s had to just “tough it out”…), and then spent hours throwing up during the day. But she still manages to pull herself together and teach over 20 students. (Astonishingly, until very recently, none of her students was even aware that she was ill! That will give you some idea of the extent to which she places her attention on others, and their needs, and not upon herself! Some of her older students first discovered that she was ill when a benefit concert was held on her behalf, and of course this required a bit of explanation, since their families all attended; some of the children, naturally, are too young to fully grasp what has been happening.)

Serving others is hardly new to Teresa. As a younger woman (she’s barely past 50 now), she spent 17 years, from before five in the morning until nearly seven at night, cooking for about 120 children … her grandfather was the founder, back in “the fifties,” of Sunshine Acres, the original home, in our State, for children who had, one way or another, become disconnected from their families. Teresa is a fighter. She fought on behalf of all of those children. And now she’s fighting a different type of fight. Several months ago, her doctors gave up on her, and offered her morphine, “to ease her passing.” She found new doctors, who suggested a new approach to her treatment, and … thank God … she is now feeling better than at any time since before we first met her! Still, she is in the middle of a major battle. We would appreciate it if those of you who pray would please pray for her (and for her husband, three daughters and other family members, and their friends). If any of you would like to drop a note of encouragement to Teresa, please click here to be directed to the e-mail address to which you should send your message. (We will forward it to her.)

There is not a single composer of classical music, not even Beethoven himself, whose music, at its best, exceeds the “beautiful music” which Teresa demonstrates time after time after time in her selfless service of others while in the midst of phenomenal levels of pain and personal challenge. It is fitting that wonderful classical music, which she’s loved and taught for many years, now rushes to serve her. We are honored to be a part of that. And that is why we have chosen to dedicate our videoblog’s first music to Teresa, in the hope that she will fully recover and live a long and Blessed life here on this earth with all of us who love her, and also in the hope that your life will be Blessed and inspired by her example!

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  1. Comment by Evelyn & Loring White:

    Hi all – So glad we got the info for this video when visiting with you last evening. Will send it on to several friends who have been interested in hearing the Rice Brothers. And about to order tickets to see you next Sat. at the Mesa Symphony. It has been a great pleasure for us to know and hear your wonderful music. See you soon. Evelyn

    Posted on May 3, 2008 @ 1:21 pm
  2. Comment by Katie Hawley:

    You brothers are incredible and your music mesmorizes the soul. Thank you for encouraging Teresa in her fight. She has been a second family to me and to many. I grew up at Sun Shine Acres as a child and the Wilson Family has blessed my life as also many many children and peers. Your music has helped her in many ways. Thank you
    Katie Hawley

    Posted on August 22, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

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