By Heather Turner
Elaine Pinkham, age 88, known at Concord Community Music School as “Champ,” recalls the day eight years ago when she asked Music School teacher Abigail Charbeneau: “Is there any way that I, at the advanced age of 80, can find a piano teacher?”
A new life opened for Pinkham as she joined the Music School as Charbeneau’s piano student.
“I never would have believed that I could play Bach, Haydn, Mozart and even Jeremiah Clarke for an audience and live through it,” Pinkham said.
In addition to piano lessons, Pinkham also takes voice lessons with Ellen Nordstrom Baer and sings in Songweavers with Peggo Horstmann Hodes. Last spring, when Horstmann Hodes asked her to join Songweavers, Pinkham decided to give it a try.
“Although I thought my singing days were over, I find some of the notes come out okay,” Pinkham said. “It is wonderful to be amongst the other Songweavers who make me feel so much a part of their group.”
Pinkham says she began piano lessons at about age 6. At age 18, her family’s upright piano had to be sold because her parents moved to a small apartment. From that day on, she never touched a piano again until her first lesson with Charbeneau. Pinkham said her love of music never waned. Living in the Boston area, she attended concerts and studied with musicologist Willi Apel, co-author of the Harvard Dictionary of Music. As a working adult, an occupational therapist at a mental health facility, she joined an amateur Gilbert and Sullivan operetta group.
Today, a retiree of 20-plus years, she is now in her eighth year as a piano student and has participated in piano department evaluations. She values each faculty member’s critique so much that they each receive a handwritten thank-you note.
“Elaine is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic students I have taught,” Charbeneau said. “Elaine pushes herself through her challenges and new situations (like evaluations), and her love for playing is evident. I am so glad she has music lessons at the Music School at this time in her life; I know she looks forward to each time she comes to the school. She is a ‘Champ!’”
To hear Pinkham’s Story Corps sound clip from last year’s Anniversary Weekend, click here (link is below).
(Photo credit Geoff Forester)