There’s a lot you could say about Linda King and after 50 years of teaching piano and voice lessons her former students came together at a surprise reception to thank their beloved teacher.
“Thank you for making a difference in so many lives.”
“Thank you for sharing your talent with others.”
“You will never know how influential you’ve been in my life.”
“I owe you more than words can express.”
Over the past five decades Kings’ piano students have gone on to become doctors, principals, teachers, choir directors, and some professional musicians. She’s taught second and third generations and said it was never her intent to produce concert pianists.
“I just always wanted my students to appreciate piano and use it to give back to others,” she said.
The 75 year-old can’t imagine a life without music because it’s shaped and molded her into who she is today.
“It’s is a language of emotion, a universal language. Everyone can communicate through it,” she explained.
As the youngest of five children, King developed a love of music along with her mother who always had keen ear for classics of Bach, Schubert, and Beethoven. Her father on the other hand, preferred cheery Broadway tunes.
“We had an old upright piano and I asked my parents for a new one,” King said. “My father told me I’ll give you a tobacco patch and what you make on that patch can go towards the piano. Well, I didn’t quite make enough but they helped me out and I’ve been playing ever since.”
Although they lived modestly, King said their home was filled with love and music. When company stopped in, her father insisted she play for guests and later in the evening she’d make her way back to the piano where her family gathered to hear hymns.
“Back then you didn’t have all this technology. Our way of spending time together was around the piano,” she said.
When she graduated high school King knew she wanted to teach music and went to St. Andrews Presbyterian College earning a degree in piano performance and teaching.
“It was a small school but I had good training. I taught the administrators kids while I was there,” she laughed.
The 20 year old wasted no time delving into her new career.
“I finished up my exams and answered an ad in the Raleigh News and Observer for a choral teacher in Brunswick County at Shallot High School. Back then they let you come into the school and teach private piano lessons. The little kids could come during recess and the high school kids came after school. I started out charging $1.75 a lesson back then 50 years ago,” she said.
For students who couldn’t afford private lessons, King made sure music was readily accessible.
“We had sing alongs on Friday for the whole school and made booklets for all the kids. So, for those who didn’t take piano they still got music. It was something everyone enjoyed and it brought the school together.”
King continued to teach for the next 25 years traveling in and out of area public schools facilitating choir and music.
“We had that in our local schools in Stokes until around 1990. I was the last one they put out,” she said. “I think it’s sad we don’t have music in schools like we once did. It helps students to be better academically in math and science. It also teaches them to be self-motivated.”
King then began teaching piano and voice lessons out of her home.
“I’ve found that some students are better in piano, but I teach voice because voice makes it more lyrical and they feel the expression more. Some students love voice but you need to learn the basic notes so you can accompany yourself or at least play your notes,” she said. “I tell the students when they come in, it depends on you how much you want to learn and how far you want to go.”
Like her mother, she appreciates the classics.
“My father came to my student’s piano recitals until he was in his 80’s. He always told me to include the happy songs of Broadways and skits. ‘Don’t forget to add the fun stuff’, he’d say. So, I did and he was right.”
King teaches her students to love what they’re doing and their listener will love it too.
Admittedly, she’s mellowed over the years and said her students have become like family.
“Sometimes I’ll sit on the bench with them and sometimes I’ll pull up a stool but I’m always close. I enjoy listening especially when I see them learning new things.”
King is still learning herself. Although arthritis has set in to her knees and shoulders she still makes her way to the bench where she practices two to three hours on any given day.
“I’ll pass it on to the next generation. I’ve found when you’re passionate about what you do the people you’re around become passionate about it too.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.