After about a half hour of warming up, there was a firm knock on the door. Ivan Galamian, a tall man with baggy eyes that drooped like a bloodhound, stood and motioned for me to follow him. He shuffled to the adjoining room which was his studio. I tagged behind with the violin and bow tucked under my arm.
Ivan Galamian's voice was low and quiet with a thick, Russian accent.
"Vot you vant play?" he said as he sat down in an armchair.
I stared at the old man, trying to assess whether it was a wart or mole under his lower lip.
"Vot you play for me?"
"You how old?"
An antique wall clock ticked loudly. I waited for Mr. Galamian's instructive.
"Zee Mozart," he said, finally.
I began to play the first movement. By this time I felt as if knew the Mozart Concerto in my sleep.
Mr.Galamian remained silent throughout the exposition. Suddenly, with a wave of his hand, he gestured for me to stop.
"Vot etudes you bring?"
"None." I lowered my violin and stared at my feet.
I drew a blank. With great effort, Mr. Galamian rose from his chair and placed Kreutzer Etudes on the music stand. He licked his hairy forefinger and opened the thick book.
"This for bow arm," he said. "Needs vork."
I began to sight-read. The etude sounded familiar. I had heard comedian Jack Benny play it on television.Ivan Galamian tapped a pencil on the music stand. "Enough, good little girl. I vill speak vis parents now."
After putting my violin in its case, I followed Mr. Galamian through the long corridor, and into the spacious kitchen where my parents sat with Mrs. Galamian over a pot of tea.
They looked up at Ivan Galamian in amazement. I thought they might levitate from their chairs. Mr. Galamian gestured for them to remain seated.
I went to sit next to my mother, and Mr. Galamian pulled up a chair by his wife. The kitchen felt oppressive as we awaited the pedagogue's verdict.
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"Your daughter—very musical," said Mr. Galamian.
"Is she ready to study with you, Mr. Galamian?" my mother chirped.
Silence. The old man was hard of hearing.
"Would it be possible for Marjorie to study with you?" she enunciated.
Mr. Galamian weighed each word as he spoke. "She has clear mind—"
"What my husband means," said Mrs. Galamian, "is that an uncluttered mind is a clean slate."
"She must vork on bow technique," said Mr. Galamian, tapping his right arm.
"Oh yes," my mother agreed. "I've noticed a difference with your pupils in that respect, Mr. Galamian. They look so graceful when they play. You're a—a miracle worker!"
The Galamians spoke of their summer camp, Meadowmount. The camp was actually a school, located in upstate New York near the Adirondacks.
"It's a very disciplined environment," said Mrs. Galamian. "Meadowmount is primarily geared for older students. But we do accept gifted children."
Mr. Galamian muttered something unintelligible to his wife, as though his mouth was full of jelly beans.
"Oh yes," continued Mrs Galamian. "Ivan suggests that your Marjorie begin her studies with one of his assistants."
A look of disappointment showed on my mother's face. "But Mr. Galamian. Why can't Marjorie study with you?"
Mr. Galamian shook his head slowly.
"He means not yet," said Mrs. Galamian. "Ivan has about one hundred and fifty students, and your daughter is too young. But don't feel bad. You know, Mr. and Mrs. Kransberg, Boss is so busy that after we were married—by none other than Norman Vincent Peale—I expected to go off on a honeymoon, like all blushing brides get to do." She giggled to herself. "But instead, you know what happened? There was a student waiting on the steps! Boss taught on the day of our wedding like every other day."
My parents laughed.
"But Meadowmount will be a fine start for your daughter. And from there, she'll be admitted to Juilliard," said Mrs. Galamian.
"Really?" my mother sang.
"Absolutely. But I should warn you that some students refer to Meadowmount as boot camp."
"Boot camp?" my father asked. His eyebrows dipped.
"Labor camp," said Mrs. Galamian. "We work those students hard. Don't we Boss?"
"How many weeks?" my mother asked.
"Two whole months. Practice sessions are five hours, six days a week with one hour private lessons, chamber music classes, and numerous recitals. It's intensive. But the students leave Meadowmount transformed into serious artists."
"Our little Marjorie has never been away from home without us," said my father, scratching his chin, and staring across the table into my eyes. "Eight weeks can seem like a long time for a child."
I had never been away from home before, and I could feel my stomach tie itself into a knot.
"Well, you can visit on Sundays, Mr. and Mrs. Kransberg. That's a day of rest for most campers. And I'll have you know, Marjorie," Mrs. Galamian said, as she reached to pat me on the head. "Sunday mornings, I cook the hotcakes myself. Boss tells me they're award-winning. Why, I've caught a few campers helping themselves to third and fourth helpings.""What a phenomenal experience," my mother said. "And just think. She could get into Juilliard, too, like the young violinist, Lynn Chang. But—" she closed her eyes deep in thought. "How will we break the news to Mrs. Scriven?"