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Posted By Susan Bernhardt
When people learn that I play the piano and have been teaching it 
for many years, they ask "is it too late for me to learn?" 
Invariably, the question comes from women in their 40's, 50's, and 
even 60's. If they took lessons as children and quit, they regret 
their decision. If they never had the opportunity to study the 
instrument as children, they long to quench a thirst buried deep 
inside them.

Men, on the other hand, seldom ask the question. Why this gender 
divide? This is a question for a researcher. Maybe Elizabeth would 
be interested in such a study. Yes, now you know. I am that 
Lorenzo. The one who went out with Elizabeth for like a nanosecond. 
Soon her interest turned elsewhere. By the way she too asked the 
question. Here is what I told her, same answer I give to everyone 
who asks. Anyone can learn to play no matter how old.

It depends on two things: a) your goal; and b) how hard you're 
willing to work. If you aspire to play Carnegie Hall and are 
starting lessons at age fifty, that's not likely to happen. If you 
set more realistic goals, your chances for success are high. In her 
thirties, the late Linda McCartney learned to play keyboards and 
joined her husband Paul on his post-Beatles tour. Her keyboard 
skills were appropriate for the type of music and the venues she 
played at. 

I have seen similar successes among my students. At age thirty, one 
student, who had taken two years of piano as a child, decided she 
wanted to become a professional musician. The pinkie finger in both 
hands turned inwardly, making it difficult to reach an octave, a 
must for pianists. With hard work, she was able to graduate from a 
respected music school and nowadays performs at churches, 
hospitals, and nursing homes and teaches piano. That’s just one 
example of the accomplishments many students have achieved.

My teaching is a bit unorthodox. I start every lesson with a 
meditation exercise focusing on the breath. Unlike Deirdre, who 
uses the music of Satie to meditate, I use just the sound of my 
voice to quiet the student’s mind and relax the physical body. A 
fractured mind and tense body don't produce good playing. Can I 
teach someone to be great if they start lessons late in life? The 
answer is no. What I can do is bring out whatever talent is locked 
inside the person. If the person commits to it and works hard, he 
or she can play the piano well at whatever age.

Lorenzo Martinez, born in Cuba is the lyrical author of What Says 
the Moon, a memoir of his experiences as a participant in Operation 
Pedro Pan, a mass migration, a silent exodus of over 14,000 
unaccompanied Cuban minors to the United States.

Note from Susan.   Lorenzo made reference to Elizabeth in his blog.  
Elizabeth and Deirdre assisted Kay in solving a murder in The 
Ginseng Conspiracy.  Elizabeth worked at the college library and 
recently decreased her hours to just one day per week to enjoy her 
three main interests, Lorenzo, Dave, and Anthony. Lorenzo, a 
classical pianist was based on my co-editor, Lorenzo Martinez. 

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Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Kay and her family walked up the concrete steps of her 
parents' front porch.  Greeted by Kay's Mom and Dad with hugs and 
kisses, they were the first to arrive to spend the 4th of July 
holiday with her parents, her siblings, and their families.  They 
visited over pieces of Roman apple cake her Mom had made and 
glasses of iced tea, before she, Phil, Andy, and Will headed off 
to the beach. 

Kay looked across the water, took in a deep breath, then exhaled.  
The air smelled fresh and organic.  It was the cherished scent of 
her childhood, and it evoked memories from that happy time: 
playing at the beach with her brothers and sisters, digging holes 
down to China, burying each other up to their necks in the sand.  
As a teenager Kay and her friends, with their beach towels lined 
up on the sand, sang and danced to the music on her sister Beth's 
transitor radio.  Later they'd ride the waves; struggling against 
the undertows was the most fun part. 

Kay lifted her face towards the heavens, felt the warmth of the 
sun, and thanked God for Lake Michigan.   

"Hon, is this a good spot?"  Phil laid down a blanket and started 
reading.  Kay walked along the shore with Andy and Will.  They 
talked about special times spent during their visits to their 
grandparents.  Gentle waves lapped around their ankles as their 
feet sunk into the soft sand.  After going for a swim and making a 
sand castle for old times sake, Kay and her family wandered back 
to her parents. The rest of her siblings had arrived.  

There were family rituals to partake in each 4th of July visit.  
That evening just before dusk, everyone headed down to the 
Sheboygan River for the Venetian Night.  Lighted and creatively-
decorated boats floated up and down the river, competing in a 
beauty contest while illuminating the rippling water in the night 
parade.  Enthusiastic onlookers cheered for their favorite boat.  
After the judging, the crowds began to return home to prepare for 
the next day.

Kay's childhood home had five bedrooms upstairs.  It was first 
come, first serve to which bedroom you claimed, if in fact you 
were lucky enough to get one.  Usually the kids camped out on the 
living room floor.  The windows were thrown open, hoping to catch 
any cool breeze in the warm summer night.  Upstairs, Kay laid 
awake next to Phil, who snored quietly with his arms draped around 
her.  She gazed at the moon past the gently waving curtains and 
listened to the sounds of the night through the open windows:  
people talking and laughing as they walked down the street, Mr. 
And Mrs. Milauskas next door having a heated argument, their 
voices rising, car doors slamming, sirens in the distance, 
crickets chirping...until, at last, she fell asleep.
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
At first light the next morning, when the birds had already 
been singing for an hour, Kay's dad left to buy schneckens—the 
local bakery fare—for breakfast.  After eating, everyone left for 
the parade downtown.  Hundreds of people gathered at the curbs 
while waving local politicians drove down Main Street in their 
shiny convertibles.  Kids riding bicycles decorated in red, white, 
and blue crepe paper followed colorful floats.  A brass band 
paraded by.  The leader of the baton twirlers marching by, threw 
her baton high into the air.  Catching the baton, she proceeded to 
twirl it to the delight of every little girl watching.  A large 
number of the men in the audience delighted in it as well.  Adults 
laughed at the clowns' antics.  The balloonman walked along with 
the parade route attracting young children to his bouquets.  
Whiffs of popcorn and cotton candy, and those little fried donuts 
with powdered sugar on them, permeated from the concession wagon 
at the corner of 8th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.  

Every 4th of July, Kay's parents held a picnic in their lush 
backyard.  Several of Kay's aunts, uncles, and cousins came.  The 
extended family alone numbered thirty-six.  Kay's dad fried out 
scores of bratwurst and hamburgers on a charcoal grill.  Her mom's 
German potato salad was always the first of the many delicous side 
dishes to disappear.  Everyone relaxed, eating the hearty meal 
around the tables set up in the yard.

In the late afternoon, Phil drove bushels of wood down to the 
beach for the bonfire that night.  Everyone walked down Broadway 
Avenue to the lake in the evening.  Bonfires already dotted the 
shore from the southside beach to the northside beach for miles.  
All the men were experts on building bonfires (so they said).  
Once made, Kay's family gathered around the fire to visit and 
reminisce about the many years of fulfilling this family 
tradition.  And roasting marshmallows.  Soon the sky and waters 
lit up with streams of color to the "oohs" and "ahhs" of the 
gathered throngs.  After the display ended and the fire 
extinguished, everyone walked back home under a canopy of stars, 
continuing to catch up on their lives, while fireflies created 
their own flickering light display among the houses. 
Late that night, Kay fell asleep to the sounds of crickets 
chirping and the intermittent firecrackers sounding off in the 

Happy 4th of July!


Lorenzo Martinez, a co-editor of The Ginseng Conspiracy will be 
the guest blogger on July 20th.  Born in Cuba, he is the lyrical 
author of What Says the Moon, a memoir of his experiences as a 
participant in Operation Pedro Pan, a mass migration, a silent 
exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to the United 



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Susan Bernhardt


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