The Value Of A Great Teacher

By Rhonda Barfield

A few blogs ago, I mentioned my perfectionist college piano teacher, Leonora Suppan. I may have given the impression that I didn’t like her. In reality, she was one of my mentors and a great inspiration.


We did not start off well, though. I walked into her studio one hot late August day, a naive freshman and the biggest fish/pianist from a tiny pond, Astoria, Illinois. Ms. Suppan was the first European I ever met, a plain but beautiful woman. She was newly arrived from Austria, wearing a lavish sleeveless dress that showed her unshaved armpits and legs. Culture shock.


I recovered enough to play the first movement of a Mozart piano sonata and sat waiting. My hometown teacher, Mrs. Kost, had given nothing but praise for my lesson performances for the last couple of years. I expected the same reaction from my new instructor. 


Instead, Ms. Suppan focused wide eyes on me and said, with a note of contempt, “That was terrible. Who taught you to play like that?” She proceeded to perform the piece again, this time with precision, beauty, and intensity. It was one of my first exposures to professionally played classical music, a humbling but enlightening experience.


For three and a half years my teacher drilled, scolded, encouraged, and prodded me toward excellence. She taught me the importance of playing well. She taught me to love classical music.


Eric and I hope to help your children earn to appreciate it, too, as we have.