Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Review: Note by Note

A Celebration of the Piano Lesson by Tricia Tunstall. Simon & Schuster, 2008. I just finished this wonderful book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves music or has a child in music lessons. I read a review of it on Becky's blog Farm School and I requested it from inter-library loan immediately. It is worth every effort to look for and acquire.

Tunstall writes with grace and tenderness about music, about her students, and about teaching. She has a master teacher's perfectly tuned ear, alert to the exact tremor of her students' needs and ability. She celebrates, as the subtitle promises, the essential loveliness of melody and of the struggle to find and nurture harmonies.

I took piano lessons from my father, starting at the age of seven. I left piano as soon as it got difficult and moved on to recorder, then clarinet, and lastly flute. I was barely good enough to play in the high school band but I enjoyed every minute. I was never a good musician. Tunstall's musical understanding is way beyond me so I marvel at the way she turns music in her hand and reveals the glorious structures that makes it as solid as colorful objects gleaming in the sunshine. In reading this book I am amazed at how much of music I have missed all my life, even as I was surrounded by it and found great pleasure in it. I had no idea of the depth and complexity of composition.

Even if you know nothing at all of music and have never had a lesson, this little memoir is a delight to read. The teacher/pupil relationship is delicately and wisely delineated. The process of moving from beginner to accomplished performer to beginner (again) is beautifully illustrated. If this intrigues you at all you must read this book.

Interview with Trisha Tunstall at

Chicken Spaghetti's mention on a Friday Poetry


Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I must read this book, then; it does sound very intriguing. I read about it on Read Roger a few weeks ago, and it's been on my wish list since (our library doesn't hold it). My son is taking violin lessons now, and I studied piano as a child and then again in college--and I would love to take lessons again.

Anonymous said...

I'm so heartened to hear that everyone who has read the book has enjoyed it and been touched by it. I'm still waiting for the library system to get it in, sigh...

Anonymous said...

This really intrigues me. I've given my daughter a few piano lessons, but though I play myself I feel very fearful of turning her off to music. It's probably the subject I care most about. Maybe this book would help give me a clearer idea of how to go about it? I'll see if I can get a hold of a copy.