Friday, August 21, 2015


     Fifty years ago, I made a decision in this building that changed my life. Why do you care? Hmm. Bonne question. You might care if you were one of my 12,000 students between 1965 and 2005. You might care if you were a member of a high school choir, and I was not your director. You might care if you were my French mother in Paris, France, or my Algerian “brother,”my waiter in Paris who introduced me to couscous. Or you might not care at all. If this is the case, then you can use the next minute to catch up on my previous blogs which will undoubtedly stimulate and provoke.

     It all started with a random date with an old high school flame. Jerry, captain of the swim team, and my heart-throb sophomore year, barely gave me the time of day while we were both in school. Then I moved on to an eccentric Italian guy, and, suddenly, I was the woman of Jerry’s dreams. Yeah, right. We were both home from college for Christmas, a few years later, and we were having a discussion about our courses. He was doing very well at a community college studying philosophy, and I was in Music School singing “Shenandoah” in Voice 101. He asked a simple question:  “What are you learning besides music there?” That question resonated with me, and I began asking myself what I really was learning besides how to sing and play the piano better. I went to my wise father and shared my conversation I’d had with Jerry. Now it is important to understand that Jerry was no scholar. His high school grade point could only get him into a community college in those days, so the whole concept of actually thinking and learning was all new to him. Who was he to question what I was learning? Anyway, my father and I ruminated about the possibility of my education being too narrow. He asked the real question: “What else would you major in?” I scratched my head, looked at the ceiling and said, “I don’t know. Maybe French?”

    The rest is history. A fabulous forty-year career as a French teacher, however, did not eliminate my love for music. I incorporated it into many lesson plans, and “George,” my baritone uke became a “Fifi, la folle” symbol.I directed a French choir for a few years in Grosse Pointe, and I required my later students to sing French rock songs. I even played some cocktail piano in a lounge in Montmartre one year. The many students I took to France through the years still look back on those trips fondly and some even say it changed their lives. My greatest joy is to watch former students who have become French teachers or francophiles continue to spread music and the beautiful French language to their own students. 

       If I had not walked into Lane Hall that day, I might have stayed in Music School and become a real diva instead of the one I imagine myself to be. Funny how seemingly simple events in our lives can have so many consequences. J’en suis reconnaissante.