Yesterday I had coffee with a friend. Because due to our move I'm not sure when we will see each other again, I asked the lady at the next table to take a picture of us before we said goodbye.
I first came to know Melinda about 13 years ago, when I joined the staff of Young Naperville Singers as a choral accompanist. At the time she was already accompanying several of the choirs of the organization, including the oldest, most advanced group. I don't think I had even actually met Melinda when I experienced her kindness for the first time. Arriving at my first rehearsal, I found a gift (I think it was homemade bread) and card waiting for me on the piano, warmly welcoming me to the group and wishing me a great first year. This was only the first of many such thoughtful acts from this lovely lady over the years.
Life being what it is, I have taken several breaks from YNS (one to have that nine-year-old who so often makes his way into my posts), but for most of that time Melinda was a constant presence in YNS, impacting it as only she could have done, both with her musicianship and with her humanity. When she left a few years ago to take a full-time position as staff accompanist at an area high school, her absence was acutely felt. Meanwhile that high school got three people for the price of one. Melinda is one of those individuals who, because she cares so much, does not know how to give anything less than her all. And what is her all? Oh my. It is a level of musicianship that I can only dream about--technical excellence that makes everything she plays seem bewilderingly effortless; an ear that hears things very few people do and a level of artistry that knows how to carry a musical idea from conception to reality; and an incredible range of ability that runs the gamut from classical masterworks to jazz improvisation and everything in between. As if all of that weren't enough, she is above all a collaborative musician, one who is happiest creating ensemble by working with others. I was honored to sit on the piano bench next to her several times on choral pieces requiring two pianists. Oh dear, was I nervous. I mean, this lady has worked in New York City and Graz, Austria. But I shouldn't have been. If you are a musician you have probably met other musicians whose primary goal is to draw attention to their superiority. Melinda could do that if she wanted to. But instead her primary goal has always seemed the exact opposite: to build up others in their musical confidence and sense of worth. Melinda once told me she admired my touch on the piano. I wonder if she realizes that I got about ten years worth of musical and personal mileage out of that one comment?
Melinda brought me a gift again yesterday, one that reflected the thought and care she put into it. I have never been very good with gifts but am okay with words so this post is for her. Thank you, Melinda, for your friendship, your kindness, your encouragement and your heart. I will miss you greatly!