By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
I became the best children piano teacher in Lagos, possibly in Nigeria, according to my ratings by my clients, not because of any musical ability, but because of the way I relate with children. Children love me because I love them a great deal and behave like them.
I simplify everything, and if I quarrel with you today, by tomorrow when I see you I will start playing with you again. Through several years of dealing with kids, I have come to have a deep understanding of how their minds work and apply learning materials accordingly.
My students at St Gloria’s College were vibrant and filled with life and energy. Music periods were their happiest moments in school. Even during break periods many of them would come to my office to play the piano or sing while I played.
As I said before, the other teachers, especially the Fine Art teacher, felt I was dominating the attention of the students at the expense of their own subjects, although every subject has its own time. From the attitudes of the teachers towards me I sensed that they were waging a serious, clandestine battle against me. Every little thing I did or said was assigned a context designed to deflect my popularity. When I noticed that, I doubled my humility which is one of my natural attributes.
After sometime I started noticing some kind of coldness towards me in the attitudes of some of my students. I knew immediately that the teachers have commenced subtle psychological conditioning of the minds of the kids, pitching them against me.
One day, during a music class, I entered the classroom to meet quite some sets of gloomy faces. Before I could write “Music” on the blackboard, a stubborn boy started murmuring: “Every time, music, every time, music,” he growled. “Music is not even important,” at least more than two students intoned. Without betraying my surprise, I said coolly, “we can all debate this. Who told you that?” The math teacher,” an innocent girl gave the identity of the brainwasher. Quietly, I balanced the board marker on the desk and walked out of the class.
I did not confront the math teacher or report the matter to anyone. I had the presence of mind to recognize that quarrels and scuffing will be useless in confronting or prosecuting a psychological war. The best way ever to confound your enemies is to return to your work and produce masterpieces of which your foes will behold and confess and say “it’s a damn good work”.
I had two powerful weapons: music and literature, and I employed both in the battle. As a master storyteller, I began to administer on them doses of stimulating stories about the life and works of musicians which fall under music literature.
I told them why it became a universal tradition for people never to sit down to sing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus; how the King of England, when he first heard Handel perform Hallelujah Chorus, singing ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords…’ the king decided he should never sit when a song that proclaims Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords was being performed.
The king stood up and of course everyone else, until Handel finished performing the Hallelujah Chorus. Since then, no choir, audience, or congregation had ever stood up to sing J. F. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus!
Children love good stories and good music. I watched their eyes got misty with happiness as I told the stories. Then the questions came after the story and I knew my brainwashed kids were on their way back to me, their lover and friend. No force in the world is stronger than the power of love!
I also went to my library and selected the best of children’s songs in my music books and drilled myself to play them. Then I identified the students who were loyal to me and told them there were some special songs I wanted us to learn to sing and play on the piano. “What’s the name of the song, Uncle?” a vibrant girl who was my closest ally asked.
“Sound of Music.”
“I know it!” some shouted.
“We have the movie!” another set screamed. It took us only a few days to perfect Sound of Music. One day during break, as we were performing the song with me sited on the piano, the other children began to walk into my office one after the other to join in the performance. Their voices rang like bells to the staffroom and other offices. Through the window I saw some of the teachers stroll bye and peeped into my office, perhaps unable to resist the music.
At the end of that term Mrs Aiyebuisi asked all the teachers to write an assessment of the characters of each student meant for their parents. After we finished writing the reports and submitted to Mrs. Aiyebuisi, she came to the staffroom with the reports to address the teachers.
“I am disappointed with many of you for writing the type of report you wrote about these kids. If you were the parents of these kids and read a teacher writing off your kids like this, how would you feel?” Mrs. Aiyebuisi said quietly but sadly.
“Now listen to me as I read the report written by Mr. Amadi. After reading what he wrote you will not be in any doubt that Mr. Amadi loves these children. He did not even hide the weaknesses of each child in the report, no. He highlighted them but acknowledged that the children will change with time.” Mrs. Aiyebuisi read the report I wrote about the students and folded it and tucked it away into her handbag.
“The Agric Teacher also wrote a good report,” She said. She returned to the other teachers their reports and asked them to re-write them. My profile surged before the proprietress, put it created more pungent feelings of jealousy amongst my colleagues, making more intense their search for anything they could use to pull me down.
Despite all I did to conceal my incompetence at extempore accompaniment on the piano and overcome it before it leaked, circumstances connived to make a public spectacle of it and me.