How do you get to Carnegie Hall?


‘Practice practice practice. But please don’t fake your practice notes and forge your parents’ signatures’

If there’s anything I’m more tired of than reading about the election, it’s writing about the election. So this week, I thought I’d switch gears and write a story that makes fun of inept people in positions of power. It also involves some lying and cheating.

It’s about the time The Child faked her violin practice notes.

First, I have to say that the whole situation was absurd from the get-go — the fact that she had to take the violin. See, The Child had been playing the piano basically from birth. And playing it very well indeed, I’ll have you know.

The Dude introduces The Child to Mr. Piano

The Dude introduces The Child to Mr. Steinway. She is, oh, two days old here


Here she is, actually touching the keys. This piano was in the soon-to-be-pummeled-by-storms teeny-tiny beach house

Here she is, actually touching the keys. This piano was in the soon-to-be-pummeled-by-storms teeny-tiny beach house

She played the piano so well that she played in competitions and gave recitals. She and some of her fellow piano prodigies once played for the residents of a nursing home in New Jersey, where a little boy was startled enough to almost miss a note when he was in the middle of Chopin’s Fantaise-Impromptu and all these oldsters started swaying in unison and singing ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows’.

But she was happily ensconced in The Quite Distinguished Private All-Girls School in New York City, whose name I still choose to omit for fear of embarrassment (mine as well as the school’s). This is the same school where the nifty sophisticated parents used to throw those elaborately wonderful martini parties you can read about in ‘Three, and You’re Under the Host’.

Well. This school, wonderful though it was (and still is), required that each girl take an instrument, starting in fourth grade. And for some silly bureaucratic reason, the piano didn’t count. Personally, I think they just wanted the girls to have to carry a saxophone or trumpet or flute to school each day — to build character. Or something.

Anyway. The Child picked the violin. Not because she wanted to learn to play the violin, as you shall soon see. But I’m thinking it was because it was relatively easy to tote.

Let's pause for yet another adorable Child-at-Piano pic. Yes, I did indeed knit that sweater

Let’s pause for yet another adorable Child-at-Piano pic. Mainly because I have no picture of her with the dreaded violin. Yes, I did indeed knit that sweater

I did mention that The Child was in fourth grade, right? This is an important detail because this was also the year that the school made a big deal about the girls being ‘responsible for their own work’ and that the parents should not interfere. You were definitely not supposed to help with their homework. In fact, if you even looked at a piece of homework, you had to write your initials on it so the teacher knew you’d done so.

Personally, I loved this policy. I was kind of busy in those days, being a copywriter on Madison Avenue and all. (You can read of my many zany adventures by clicking on the Adland Lore tab in the sidebar.)

So. I was completely unprepared to come home one day from an action-packed Adland Day to find a stern message on our answering machine. It went something like this:

“An issue has arisen involving your daughter. Your presence is requested in the Office of the Headmistress of School Name Goes Here as soon as possible.”

Goodness! What in heaven’s name could she have been up to? She was a little young for dealing drugs. And cell phones — which became the object of confiscation when she was in high school — hadn’t even been invented yet. Or just barely.

So I screwed my courage to the sticking place, or something like that, and got myself to the Headmistress’s office. There I found not only the Headmistress, but The Child’s violin teacher, clutching several sheets of paper and looking outraged. (The violin teacher, incidentally, is the ‘inept person in a position of power’ in this story, not the Headmistress.)

Turns out that The Child was required, as part of her violin instruction, to keep a practice log where she noted how much time she spent practicing each day. And that she was supposed to get one of her parents to sign it each week. Well. I had never seen this practice log, much less signed it. Which was the trouble. So now Inept Violin Teacher Lady hands me the practice log.

It seems that The Child had taken it upon herself to write in ‘practice times’ of ’84 minutes’, ‘132 minutes’, ’67 minutes’ and suchlike. (Which is pretty funny, as well as unlikely.) I had just startled to chuckle inappropriately when I noticed the ‘signatures’.

At the bottom of each weekly column of completely fantastical fabricated practice times, she had painstakingly forged our signatures. There they were: our whole names, middle names and titles included. I was ‘Mrs. First Name Middle Name Last Name’. The Dude was even ‘Dr. First Name Middle Name Last Name, M.D.‘. Scrawled in nine-year-old handwriting. In pencil.

Oh, and there’s more. This was March. The practice log started in September. Don’t you think, if you were the Violin Teacher in Question, that you would have noticed something funny before almost seven months had passed?

So what was the upshot of this meeting? In addition to having to apologize (after explaining first that I was merely following the school’s hands-off homework policy), The Child and I had to attend Remedial Makeup Violin Practice — at seven in the morning. I suppose the punishment did in fact fit the crime, especially since the Inept Violin Teacher had to be there too.

Quick note in case you’re feeling sort of bad about this school. The Headmistress wasn’t born yesterday; shortly after this incident the Violin Teacher was reassigned to Other Duties.

And what was the upshot at home? The Child and The Dude and I got what is known as a ‘teachable moment’ out of the whole episode. You know, where you talk about things like honesty and responsibility and how it’s really not a great idea to lie and cheat and put inept people in positions of power. (Are you reading this, Donald?)

Oh, and shortly thereafter, and for the duration of her required-instrument period at the school, The Child switched to the french horn.

I don't have a photo of her playing the french horn, either. But I do have this one of her performing. Not at Carnegie Hall, but at Steinway Hall. Which is also pretty cool

I don’t have a photo of her playing the french horn, either. But I do have this one of her performing. Not at Carnegie Hall, but at Steinway Hall. Which is also pretty cool

Amagansett, New York. November 2016



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14 thoughts on “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

  1. Oh how I enjoyed this post. I think she used her initiative and came up with a plan so cunning that you could (as per Baldrick from BBC’s Blackadder series) put a tail on it and call it a fox! Cannot believe that the violin teacher was daft enough not to pick it up after the first week. She was most certainly outsmarted. Thank you so much for sharing this #weekendblogshare x

  2. I was a trumpet player. Crash wants to learn guitar. Both love banging on things like drums (hence Crash and Bang). Great story… we haven’t seen a forged signature yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Some times the bad guy wins (i.e. inept people get the power).

    • Hah! I figured Crash and Bang liked things that crash and bang (!) Thank you for weighing in. And for your comment about inept people in power. There’s a ‘teachable moment’ there, for sure. For all of us, not just our kids. xoxoxo

  3. As always, love your story, Alice! Brought back memories of when my young Children in their Not Quite So Distinguished Public School in Greenwich, Ct, had to have a parent sign the bottom of their homework assignment sheets everyday. Oftentimes, The Children very craftily had me scribble my Jane Hancock right before they got on the bus in the morning. Fortunately I was never caught by Teacher Gestapo for signing and not knowing what I was signing. With four kids in a five-year span, I would sign my life away in those days. Not the most teachable moment. Get Mommy when she has no time. And time was the rarest commodity in those days. As for violins, I would hear violins playing in my head with such frivolity while I signed away.

    Keep the stories coming! I so enjoy them…..and can so relate.

    • Love your comment! Can’t believe I thought I was so busy, what with just one Child and all. The little devils are sure crafty, aren’t they? Enjoy your Thanksgiving xoxoxo!

  4. Ellen Fulton

    So clever, that Child! Maybe – She believed in practice, just wanted to save you time, that’s all! Brings back some funny memories for me also … one Child wanted to continue lessons, bc she LIKED Her teacher, but practice was not in her plan. I ended that dream. One son looked so truly horrified at the very idea of piano lessons that I gave up on the spot. His older bro had some talent, but never practiced. Now … of course, he wishes he did ..

    BTW isn’t that Jack Benny? His violin was the best! We loved his silences & humor. Before TV. Such talent.

    • Ah, Ellen. I was hoping somene would recognize Jack! So so funny. Remember him hesitating over a robber threatening ‘your money, or your life’? Too much! So glad you enjoyed this one; hope it didn’t dredge up too many unhappy piano-practice memories. Oh! And Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  5. I have to admire her genius in forging signatures. But it sounds like you dissuaded her from following that as a career path which is probably a good thing. My husband “dismissed” his piano teacher as a little boy and that was the end of that. You have to be pretty imaginative as a little kid to get out of things and into things.

    • Hah! I love that your husband ‘dismissed’ his piano teacher! Quel coincidence — mine did that, too. He said she was ‘mean’ and used to hit his fingers with a ruler. But he added that he always regretted that he just quit and didn’t tell his parents why. Of course, not sure how 1950s parents would react; I know mine would probably have said something like ‘She hit you? Well. You probably deserved it.’ Anyway. Thanks for weighing in! And I hope you and your hub have a most wonderful Thanksgiving. I just finished making pie crust. Whew.

  6. Alice, Great story.

    I wonder if the Headmistress and Violin Teacher Lady laughed about all of this when they were offstage. Just thinking that at the end of their day’s work, in they jeans and sweatshirts at the kitchen table if they didn’t just marvel at The Child’s very bold move. They must have seen how their pedagogy as practiced there in The Quite Distinguished Private All-Girls School in New York City created the perfect environment for a student to try such a thing. It all seems so likely.

    As always, send my compliments to the LutheranLiar paparazzi for being on the spot.

    • Hey thanks, Bruce. Glad you enjoyed this one. (Hope The Child does, too!) Actually, she’s pretty resigned to my disclosing her nefarious deeds in my stories. (She famously told me once ‘It’s your blog; you can write aboutanything you want.’ Probably gnashing her teeth about now.) And yes, I wondered later how the H’mistress and V Lady talked about this offstage (!) Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving — ‘see’ you next week!

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