Student Nomination Story

I started playing the piano when I was 9 years old. After years of listening to my mom play during the day when she wasn’t working, I finally asked if I could start taking lessons. After spending my first few years with my first teacher, it was time for me to get a new one. Joe had already been teaching my brother for about a year, so he already knew our family a little bit. I was nervous when I first met him at Harland Music, but that quickly went away when I saw how friendly and downright hilarious he was. I can’t remember a lesson we’ve had thus far where I haven’t had a good laugh with him. A couple years ago, Joe moved to Texas with his wife, but that didn’t stop us from getting on a Skype call and having our lessons. I was virtual learning before it was cool. What I like most about Joe is that he knows how to challenge me. With pieces like La Campanella, Gargoyles for Piano no. 4, or Prelude in G Minor, the following week I would come back and be like “Joe, this is way too hard for me,” but he never gave up on me. He would convince me that I could do it, and after a couple months, I would find that he was right. Not once did I give up and drop the piece, despite me wanting to at times. One moment in particular that was very intimidating was when he said, “Hey, we should do Rhapsody in Blue as a concerto for federation.” I’d never listened to the whole thing before, so that’s just what I did when I got home. I remember thinking How hard could it be? Are you kidding me!? This thing is 20 minutes long?!? How on earth am I supposed to learn this whole thing…AND MEMORIZE IT??? I thought there was absolutely no way I could do it, but with Joe’s help, we worked through it bit by bit. There were many roadblocks and times where I needed a break, but after approximately 7 months, I had managed to play the whole thing through, start to finish. Sure, it may have taken 30 minutes. Sure, it probably didn’t sound the greatest. Sure, it still needed a lot of work, but the feeling that came after it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt. I remember texting Joe after I had done that. I remember telling him it felt like I could do anything after that. It was then that I started realizing Hey, I can actually do this. Once again, Joe was right. Through every struggle, every time I thought I couldn’t do it, you never gave up on me. You always had my back, and for that I am incredibly grateful. Thank you for all the courage you gave me, along with all the good times we’ve had together. Without you, I never would have gotten to where I am today. I look forward to seeing what we’ll be able to do together in the future.

Benjamin Brandel

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.