At the prodding of my friends, I am writing this story.
My name is Mildred Hondorf. I am a former elementary
school music teacher from Des Moines, Iowa.
I've always supplemented my income by teaching piano lessons
something I've done for over 30 years.
Over the years I found that children have many levels of musical
ability. I've never had the pleasure of having a prodigy though I have
taught some talented students.
However I've also had my share of what I call musically challenged"
pupils. One such student was Robby. Robby was 11 years old when his
mother (a single mom) dropped him off for his first piano lesson.
I prefer that students (especially boys!) begin at an earlier age,
which I explained to Robby.
But Robby said that it had always been his mother's dream to hear him
play the piano. So I took him as a student. Well, Robby began with his
piano lessons and from the beginning I thought it was a hopeless
As much as Robby tried, he lacked the sense of tone and basic rhythm
needed to excel. But he dutifully reviewed his scales and some elementary
pieces that I require all my students to learn.
Over the months he tried and tried while I listened and cringed and
tried to encourage him. At the end of each weekly lesson he'd always say,
"My mom's going to hear me play someday." But it seemed hopeless. He just
did not have any inborn ability. I only knew his mother from a distance as
she dropped Robby off or waited in her aged car to pick him up. She always
waved and smiled but never stopped in. Then one day Robby stopped coming
to our lessons.
I thought about calling him but assumed because of his lack of ability,
that he had decided to pursue something else. I also was glad that he
stopped coming. He was a bad advertisement for my teaching!
Several weeks later I mailed to the student's homes a flyer on the
upcoming recital. To my surprise! Robby (who received a flyer) asked me if
he could be in the recital. I told him that the recital was for current
pupils and because he had dropped out he really did not qualify. He said
that his mother had been sick and unable to take him to piano lessons but
he was still practicing. "Miss Hondorf . . . I've just got to play!" he
I don't know what led me to allow him to play in the recital. Maybe it
was his persistence or maybe it was something inside of me saying that it
would be all right. The night for the recital came. The high school
gymnasium was packed with parents, friends and relatives. I put Robby up
last in the program before I was to come up and thank all the students and
play a finishing piece. I thought that any damage he would do would come
at the end of the program and I could always salvage his poor performance
through my "curtain closer."
Well, the recital went off without a hitch. The students had been
practicing and it showed. Then Robby came up on stage. His clothes were
wrinkled and his hair looked like he'd run an eggbeater through it. "Why
didn't he dress up like the other students?" I thought. "Why didn't his
mother at least make him comb his hair for this special night?"
Robby pulled out the piano bench and he began. I was surprised when he
announced that he had chosen Mozart's Concerto #21 in C Major. I was not
prepared for what I heard next. His fingers were light on the keys, they
even danced nimbly on the ivories. He went from pianissimo to fortissimo,
from allegro to virtuoso. His suspended chords that Mozart demands were
magnificent! Never had I heard Mozart played so well by people his age.
After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo and everyone
was on their feet in wild applause.
Overcome and in tears I ran up on stage and put my arms around Robby in
joy. "I've never heard you play like that Robby! How'd you do it? "
Through the microphone Robby explained: "Well Miss Hondorf . .remember I
told you my Mom was sick? Well, actually she had cancer and passed away
And well . . . she was born deaf so tonight was the first time she ever
heard me play. I wanted to make it special. There wasn't a dry eye in the
house that evening. As the people from Social Services led Robby from the
stage to be placed into foster care, I noticed that even their eyes were
red and puffy and I thought to myself how much richer my life had been for
taking Robby as my pupil.
No, I've never had a prodigy but that night I became a prodigy. . . of
Robby's. He was the teacher and I was the pupil For it is he that taught
me the meaning of perseverance and love and believing in yourself and
maybe even taking! a chance in someone and you don't know why.
Robby was killed in the senseless bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah
Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995.
This is the type of story that all need to read. It helps us to get our
life in perspective and show compassion for others.... Tell all you know how
you feel about them, Give a big hug. Tomorrow may be too late!
Send this story on to all you know for the glory of God! Thanks!
God Bless Each & Every One Of You & Much Love, Dede