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If you don't own a piano, practice on cardboard |

Young Star

If you don't own a piano, practice on cardboard

- Armi Millare -

MANILA, Philippines - As a student, I remember coming to class, and I also remember why I didn’t want to come to class. My love for learning varied. The last time I checked, I wasn’t — to use the politically correct term — mentally incapacitated to learn, but my interest in things would wane every now and then, like many other students.

Day one at the UP College of Music: I thought it was a dream come true. I had never wanted anything so badly, enough to defy my parents’ wish to have a doctor in the family. The band had just gotten signed under an independent label, resulting in my decision to move out because of both my burgeoning career and school of choice.

Enter Miss Luci Magalit, whose piano class I had apparently signed up for.

It was almost midterms, and I was having trouble memorizing my Bartok piece. Miss Luci pulled me aside and told me, “Let me teach you how to memorize this…” She took out a pencil and wrote over my photocopied piece and said, “This is how I do it and it really works. Try it out.” Her eyes stayed focused on that piece of paper. Surprised at her dedication to get me to learn the damn thing, I kept staring at them, those eyes. She really wanted me to learn — I could see that.

(If only Mrs. Munoz was like her, I would’ve enjoyed my algebra in sixth grade. I even wrote her a poem and read it to class on her birthday thinking she’d be nicer to me. But she was an Aquarian and her heart was made of utter concrete. I then began to hate mathematics and never got past calculus. I also hated chemistry, but Mr. Roa was such a decent man, I think I’d try to learn it again if I were given the chance; but I digress, I don’t think Fe would be as useful as Fa.)

Miss Luci wanted me to learn so badly but I just couldn’t focus on reading and getting my fingers to play the appropriate keys.

She then said, “Okay, I’ll get you a slice of cake if you do a good job.”

Now she got me listening. I’m not sure if Bartok would’ve approved of my playing, but I do remember getting the cake. Why did she have to resort to bribing me with a slice of chiffon cake with lots of icing? Was it just to get my attention? Maybe. But it was really because she really wanted me to learn that piece.

There are just people who truly love what they do, and know how to do it from the heart. But it takes another kind to be able to teach that love to another person. Luci Magalit had that talent. She was the kind of teacher that you’d want to be a part of your schedule — the kind that a student would give stuff to just out of gratitude for coming to class. (ln my case, that took the form of chocolate filled pillows aptly called Pillows.) Which wasn’t easy for someone who had other seemingly more fun engagements to do, like being sent to compete at prestigious competitions all over the world. And even if there were only six of you in class, she still gave it her best. She was never cranky — and she didn’t mind if you made noise, so long as you made sense. She would also never say, “Somebody else should’ve made it here instead of you, what a waste of space in this university,” even if she thought you needed to shift to Dance.

Recently, I composed my readmission request after being on leave for so long. It was because I remember her telling me how much easier life would be if I went back to school this June. And I believe her. Her advice shows the integrity of someone who truly wants to see another person succeed.

When I asked her if I could be like her, she told me no and probably thought I was being silly. I appreciated that. She was right: I couldn’t possibly be her but I could be somewhat like her. That’s a thought that still keeps me going.

There are two things guaranteed to make you memorable. First, be the worst version of what you’re supposed to be; or second, be the best even when you’re confronted with the worst. Either of the two will surely leave a mark.

I’m happy to say that Luci Magalit managed, despite the odds, to leave an indelible one on me. One written in icing and sweet to the ears.

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