Me with Grace Lane Leggett
That I didn’t practice the piano more as a teenager is one of my great regrets in life. Today, I hear people play and know that if I had only tried a little harder, I might be able to enjoy that talent as an adult. After all, I took piano lessons for years from Grace Lane Leggett in Magnolia, Mississippi. Mrs. Grace was the most admired piano teacher in Pike County – maybe beyond. Her little studio out behind her home was a one-room wonder filled with two beautiful pianos and hundreds of photos of her students. Every inch of wall- space was covered with photos of those she taught. I can still feel the heat in that room and hear the tick tick of the metronome, which was designed to help students keep time, but which put Mrs. Grace right to sleep. She would begin each lesson by asking me to play my scales. By the time I ran through my scales, she was sound asleep. The rest of the lesson, I would sit at the piano daydreaming and imagining the stories of her students lives. Mrs. Grace once reported to my mother that I was a “dreamer” to which my mother replied “Well, wake her up, Mrs. Grace!” She refused and quietly said to my mother, “Chopin was a dreamer, Suzanne.” It is a wonder I was ever ready for a recital, which was a very big deal in town. It was held at South Pike High School in the Grace Lane Leggett Auditorium and I always had a brand new dress for the occasion. I’m embarrassed to say that Buzzing Bee was the toughest piece I ever made it through. I wonder about that little piano studio behind Mrs. Grace’s house – what happened to the pianos and the photos. And, I wonder what kind of piano player I would be today, if only I had practiced a little harder and a little longer.