Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prelude to DeLay (Ch.11 Pt.1)

My father, accused of all sorts of wrong doings by my mother, sat in our living room in his Hanes boxers. He picked up the phone after my mother's prodding, and telephoned the famed pedagogue, Dorothy DeLay at Juilliard. My mother stood with her arms folded. I eavesdropped from the kitchen doorway. After finally getting through to Miss DeLay, he introduced himself as the father of a promising, young violinist who had studied for the past three years with Sally Thomas on Honorary Scholarship at Juilliard and Meadowmount, soloed with the Boston Pops under Harry Ellis Dickson, and had recently been offered a conditional acceptance into the Heifetz Masterclass. My father may have been tone deaf but he had perfect sales pitch.

"You  see, Miss DeLay—do you mind if I share a bit of background? Our fourteen-year-old violinist, Marjorie, is a sensitive, sensitive youngster. You give her one harsh look, a look that signals dissatisfaction with her work, and she'll begin to cry. That former teacher of hers—I mean no disrespect—I'm sure you're friends and all that, but—" He lowered his voice. I thought I heard my father say, "colder than a nun's navel. And if my daughter's gonna have to leave Juilliard on account of her, it won't be for anyone other than Heifetz. But she'd love nothing more than to return to Juilliard and study with you."

I edged my way into the living room to witness my father's performance. As far as I was concerned, he could have won an Oscar for the deft handling of an internationally renowned pedagogue.
He pointed to me and then to his forehead, as if to say, listen and learn. He was about to prove his intellectual prowess and business acumen. "That's right. I couldn't have this kind of conversation with her as I'm having with you."
My mother stroked his arm for encouragement.

"I'm gonna let you in on a secret, Miss DeLay." My father leaned over the secretary desk and distractedly picked up a ballpoint pen to doodle in the phone book. "Marjorie and my beautiful wife, Frances, hop onto the 2 A.M. Greyhound Bus on Saturdays in Boston and arrive in time for an 8:00 lesson at Juilliard. And I drive them to the bus terminal every week to see them off for the five hour commute. How's that for dedication?"
He nodded enthusiastically. I couldn't make out Miss DeLay's response, even as I crept closer to my father. The scent of Old Spice tickled my nostrils, and I was about to sneeze.
"Is that right, Miss DeLay? You have a young violin student by the name of David Kim who flies in from South Carolina with his mother two times a week? Wait till I tell my wife, Frances. Oh, you're gonna enjoy Frances! You know, she plays the violin too. An amateur, she calls herself, but I think my Frances is a virtuoso."
My mother's hands flew to her mouth as she stifled a laugh. "Your father," she whispered to me.

"Now my next question, Miss DeLay: Will our Marjorie need to audition for you?"
My father shook his head, no, to signal Miss DeLay's response, and waved his finger for us to keep still.
"You do, huh. You remember Marjorie's performance of the Bruch Concerto. Yes, that's right. She was runner-up for the Juilliard Pre-College solo competition last year. Oh, what a fantastic memory you have, Miss DeLay. How do you manage to remember all those marvelous students from around the world? Frances tells me that you teach violinists all the way from Israel and the Soviet Union. They arrive at the school in droves! When I tell my little girl, Marjorie, that she's now a Dorothy DeLay pupil and will be returning to Juilliard, I'll bet you anything she'll head straight to her violin."

When the telephone interview had ended, my mother cheered "bravo." She wrapped her arms around my father and reached for a kiss. He pulled her down to his lap. As I stood and watched with amazement—were these my parents?—my mother shot me a glance.
"Go practice, Marjorie Jill. Time is of the essence."