On Friday, Bryan performed in his last recital for The Conservatory. It was a sad, bittersweet performance. Many students performed that evening at the 8:00 program. Bryan was the only performer with special needs. We heard beginning pianists – little tykes whose feet dangled from the bench and played the simplest of melodies. We heard high school seniors dash off performances of Chopin and Beethoven with ease and skill.
Bryan was very nervous that night, knowing this would be the last performance at this venue. He had been studying music therapy and piano lessons there for twenty-plus years since at least 2002. He has had two music therapists as his teachers who let him explore many different instruments such as drums, recorders and piano during those twenty years. He proclaimed the trombone as the instrument he really wanted to play, but that never came to pass. Ultimately, he was asked to choose which he wanted to study. He chose the piano, though singing is his first love.
What did he perform that night? Two Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites – “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma and “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific – favorite musicals from his. When I explained to him that Oscar Hammerstein’s house was not far from the Conservatory, he thought that was pretty cool. The performance was laborious and slow, but we were so very proud of him with all of his efforts. His home practice is done entirely on his own. No one supervises his efforts. So this was quite a special performance for that alone.
So, why will this be his last performance? Because, after 34 years, the Conservatory is closing it’s doors. Why? Probably a combination of things, foremost the impact that Covid had on music lessons both in-person and virtual. Bryan never stopped taking lessons throughout the pandemic. He even recitaled virtually twice.
But the reality is, the relatively new building housing a recital hall, practice and lesson rooms has to close due to financial difficulties, leaving a faculty with nowhere to teach and students with nowhere to study. Instruments and supplies are being sold off. Incredibly sad.
Bryan’s teacher for at least fifteen of those twenty years cried that night as she explained to the audience the value of the therapy program offered to students such as Bryan. He bought her a bouquet of flowers, a gift card and a thank you card. Hugs and tears were abundant as they said goodbye. Teresa, his teacher, is hopeful that Bryan can travel down to Settlement Music School for lessons. I am less optimistic. The possibility of being able to get Bryan there for lessons during rush hour by a staff member is slim. It’s a real schlep. Of course we will try every which way we can.
An era has come to a close. Bryan loves his music. The Conservatory has afforded him rare opportunities to appear in recitals at various Bucks County venues on piano and voice, playing some original compositions which Teresa helped him write, and singing twice at the “Sounds of Excellence” program in the Perelman Theater of the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia in front of hundreds, never missing a beat.
I am hoping that somehow, someway, another musical opportunity will open up for Bryan to explore. It’s in his blood. It’s in his families’ blood. But now, we grieve, along with many others whose lives will never be the same due to the absence of music in their lives. As the “Big Yellow Taxi” song goes : “Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”