The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall
“Inspiration is divine.
For everything else there are teachers.”
–St. Cecelia, Patron Saint of Musicians
Author Barbara Hall created Judging Amy, a successful television series from 1999-2005. Tyne Daly played Amy’s mother in a Hartford, Connecticut setting. I was a fan of the stories involving independent women dealing with the complicated challenges of dispensing equal justice from the bench, or in Tyne character’s case caring for children as a social worker.
Now, Ms. Hall has added an adult book with depth and candor to her list of YA novels and many other accomplishments.
Ms. Hall’s protagonist in The Music Teacher is a mean music teacher by her own admission. During the day the divorcee works in a music store and teaches music to unenthusiastic students, and at night she returns to her trailer. However, a new pre-teen student, Hallie Bolaris, walks into Pearl Swain’s music room, into her life, and her boring, predictable world tilts. This student not only has perfect pitch, she has the gift. She is intuitive. She understands how to hear the notes on the page, feel the notes leave the strings of the violin, and collect the nuances of those notes as they return to the instrument.
Pearl can’t help being obsessed with her student’s welfare and talent. Nothing matters except the exquisite physics of sound produced by the defensive Hallie. The consequences of Pearl’s total dedication foreshadow the inevitable confrontation between the teacher and student.
The journey of this middle-aged, ordinary teacher traces the magic, the unexplainable making of music through the release of energy, and its return as the raw beauty of inspired sound. Ms. Hall writes many lines in this novel readers will want to savor and sit in silence to let the rhythms of the words resonate, but beware, “You can’t kill music… Once you find it, you are a slave to it forever. You serve it; it doesn’t serve you. You no longer pretend to be a master of your universe.”