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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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mrs. poole

Saw "Master Class" at the Royal Alex with Cathy last night. It was about singing lessons, but it brought back memories of my ARCT piano lessons. My teacher was Mrs. Poole, well-known at the Royal Conservatory of Music at the time. Occasionally I ran into her composer husband, Clifford Poole (I had learned several of his pieces years before).

Mrs. Poole taught lessons in her condo on Charles Street, and I dutifully went every week. She was aggressive, highly-opinionated, and I was terrified of her most of the time. Her hands were too arthritic for her to do much playing herself anymore...even the pencilled notes she frequently scrawled on my music were difficult to decipher. She yelled, she ordered, she beat the top of the piano with the flat of her hand. I hated her at first, but then started to realize that my piano playing was gaining a depth I had never experienced before. For the first time, I would practice for hours and not counting the minutes until my time was up (I was practising about 4 hours a day back then). Mrs. Poole died before I was ready for my ARCT practical exam. When her husband called with the news, I wasn't surprised...she had been having to cancel more and more of my lessons because of health problems. Still, it was a shock to hear she was really gone.

By that time, I had already realized that I did not want to make music my full-time career, and I opted not to resume lessons with another piano teacher. I still pull out my ARCT music from time to time, just to see how much of it I still remember, but when I devote any time to music these days, it's usually to Urban Tapestry repertoire or songwriting.

While I cannot honestly say I ever loved Mrs. Poole, I know that I will never erase any of those pencilled scribbles, nor will I ever forget her.

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