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Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

Violet Leslie - Pianist, Violinist and Music Teacher

Highly Commended - 2014 Blackened Billy Written Poetry Award at Tamworth Country Music Festival
Published in 2014 Bronze Swagman Book of Australian Bush Verse

Apart from my parents, one of the strongest influences in my young life was my beloved piano teacher, Miss Violet Leslie (1897-2002). Yes, she lived till the age of 105 years! This is my very personal tribute to an inspirational lady.

The Music Teacher

As a young girl of eight I arrived at her gate
with a music case clutched in my hand,
and I started to climb for the very first time
steps that led to a magical land.
From the earliest age, when I looked at a page
of sheet music, I longed to explore
all the dashes and dots and the dark inky spots
that inhabited lines on the score.

So the seasons crept by till the day dawned when I
reached the age when it all came to be.
My piano was bought, and a teacher was sought
who became very special to me.
She was trim and petite, and incredibly neat,
with a face somewhat stern in repose,
but when music would play, light would flood through the grey
just as sun on a showered earth glows.

I remember the scent of her soap as I went
to her bathroom to wash after school.
I remember the shade the big mango tree made
on her porch, so inviting and cool.
I remember her praise on those wonderful days
when my practice shone through as I played.
She would never chastise, but the hurt in her eyes
would abash me when I failed the grade.

I would sometimes conceive the desire to achieve
with a piece that would pose quite a test.
She would never refuse, but allowed me to choose,
knowing challenges brought out my best.
The emotions I'd trace when I looked at her face
would inspire me to strive to excel
more than I'd ever dreamed, to play music that seemed
to envelop my soul with its spell.

Each composer's great name very quickly became
like a friend I had cherished for years.
As I listened and learned, how their genius burned -
touching more than my eyes and my ears!
Like a superfine dart penetrating my heart
tiny seeds of sweet music were sown.
As my skills were enhanced, the piano keys danced
as if beating with life of their own.

All the care that she took can't be found in a book -
she was born with the talent to guide.
She possessed the rare art to reach into the heart
and to unlock the secrets inside.
She remembered with pride till the day that she died
at the age of one hundred and five,
all the joy she had brought to the students she'd taught,
keeping musical talent alive.

It is fifty long years, filled with laughter and tears,
since I placed my small hands on the keys
and that first note unfurled an amazing new world
filled with faceted treasures to seize!
And I wonder how I would have coped and got by
without music as part of my life
as melodious bars lift my joys to the stars
and make lighter the burdens of strife.

At the close of the day when I sit down to play
my piano, I pause to recall
how I reached for the sky with encouragement by
the most wonderful teacher of all.
Then my memory glows as my gratitude flows,
and I still hear her words - even yet -
"Music stirs hidden springs to remember sweet things,
and in dark days of sorrow ... forget."

(c) Shelley Hansen 2013


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