The Music Teacher

The Music Teacher

by Barbara Hall

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Overview

In The Music Teacher, a penetrating and richly entertaining look into the heart and mind of a woman who has failed both as an artist and as a wife, Barbara Hall, award-winning creator and writer of such hit television series as Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, tells the story of a violinist who has accepted the limitations of her talent and looks for the casual satisfaction of trying to instill her passion for music in others. She gets more than she bargains for, however, when a young girl named Hallie enters her life. For here at last is the real thing: someone with the talent and potential to be truly great. In her drive to shape this young girl into the artist the teacher could never be, she makes one terrible mistake. As a result she is forced to reevaluate her whole life and come to terms with her future.

Hall has crafted a thoroughly engrossing novel that examines the pitfalls of failure and holds up a mirror to the face of a culture that places success and achievement above all else.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565126725
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 02/10/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 292
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

In addition to Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, Barbara Hall has written for the television series Northern Exposure, I'll Fly Away, Moonlighting, and Hill Street Blues, among others. She is also the author of eight previous novels, five of them for young adults. She lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

THE MUSIC TEACHER

a Novel
By BARBARA HALL

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Copyright © 2009 Barbara Hall
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-56512-463-9


Chapter One

I am the mean music teacher. I am that cranky woman you remember from your youth, the one whose face you dreaded seeing, whose breath you dreaded smelling as I leaned over you, tugging at your fingers. You made jokes about me, drew caricatures of me in your notebooks, made puns out of my name, swore never to be me.

Well, listen. I swore never to be me, too.

My name is Pearl Swain. It is my real name. I didn't make it up to give you something to laugh about. My mother chose it for noble reasons. I was named after her mother, a woman she alternately revered and despised. My mother's stories changed with her moods. I tried to stay away from both.

I started playing the violin when I was ten. Two years too late, I was eventually told, to become a great violinist. So I became a very good violinist, which is about like being a very good mathematician. It means you cannot actually make your living at your chosen profession. It means you have to teach others how to surpass you.

Here is why your music teacher was so mean: She didn't want to teach. She wanted to be a musician. She wanted to be first chair in some respectable philharmonic, or onstage with some famous rock band or jazz quartet. She wanted to compose her own pieces and have them published and admired. She wanted an audience for her music, not a succession of surly children being forced to memorize folk tunes and watered-down pop and gospel songs so that their parents could sit through endless recitals and brag about these accomplishments as if they were their own.

Like your music teacher, I am not as old as I appear. I am only forty, and I have aspirations still, circling the drain, but there, nagging and growing louder as they fade. I also have a sex life, or did. Something no one likes to imagine. I have been married and divorced and have been rejected countless other times, and I have even done my share of rejecting. I have bought silly lingerie and cooked impossibly difficult meals and lit candles in the bedroom and used chocolate syrup on things other than ice cream. But don't think about that. Just know that it's true.

I work in a precious little music shop on the West Side of Los Angeles called McCoy's, named after a Scottish guitar maker, who opened up the place to sell his own handmade guitars and violins, only to be put out of business by the larger chains. He sold the store, and the new management turned the place into a kind of haven for displaced would-be members of Fairport convention, people who play quaint instruments that no one wants to hear. We sell acoustic guitars, mandolins, violins, cellos, accordions, bongos, recorders, harmonicas, and honest-to-God lutes. The manager, Franklin, tries to pretend that we provide a much-needed service to the area, and he affects an air of disdain for anyone who can't see that, anyone who aspires to play something beyond glorified campfire music.

There is a repair shop, run by Declan McCoy, grandson of the original owner. He rides his bike to work and has a beard down to his diaphragm. There is a back room, where we host small concerts, and there are rooms upstairs where we teach lessons. If you teach, you have to put some hours into working in the shop, selling guitar strings and tuners and sheet music and shakers.

So in between lessons, I hang out in the store and argue with the other clerks and teachers. I argue the most with Franklin, a decent guitar player who dreams of being a session musician (which is not unlike dreaming of being a ghost writer), and who believes that there are only two guitarists on earth who can even rival him - Alvin Lee and Richard Thompson. Jimmy Page, he says, was only complex, and anybody can be complex if it's the only thing that matters to him. Jimi Hendrix, he says (though he refers to him only as Hendrix), simply reinvented the instrument to suit his purposes. Don't even talk to him about Keith Richards. (I don't know why. I don't care enough.) Eric Clapton is a sellout, chuck Berry treated his guitar like a car engine (that's a criticism, he swears), and Segovia turned his guitar into a piano, so why the hell didn't he just play the piano?

This is what I listen to all day long. Him arguing with Ernest and Patrick and Clive. They all have rules like this. His are just the stupidest and most cryptic. Ernest hyperventilates over Stevie Ray Vaughan and can't discuss Lynyrd Skynyrd without crying. Patrick says he'd marry Paul Simon if he weren't straight. (I suppose he means if he, Patrick, weren't straight - another lively topic of debate.) Clive, at twenty-eight, is the youngest member of the group, since Franklin won't hire anyone under twenty-five. Clive is a bass player who says that there is no such thing as a great band without a great rhythm section. He says that out loud, whenever Franklin walks by, and if Franklin is in a pleasant mood, he actually pauses to say, "Well, show me the all-rhythm-section band." "The Police," Clive quips, and Franklin holds a hand to his heart, as if he's been shot.

It's all very sad. They are like chess players, arguing over the most valuable piece on the board rather than the beauty of strategy. They are missing the big picture. Musicians often do that. Sometimes I do it, too. We all defend our instruments as if they were extensions of our personalities, which maybe they are, but should we admit it in public? I don't.

Of all the people employed at McCoy's, I make Franklin the craziest. He does not understand me. Mainly because I am a woman. Franklin's musical politics are not unlike those of the Taliban. He probably thinks we should be arrested for playing instruments in public. We're allowed to sing because singers are the lowest of the low. We're occasionally relegated to the piano ghetto because the piano, as Franklin puts it, is the dime-store novel of popular music. But when we try to make pleasant sounds come from anything else, we're playing with fire, encroaching on sacred territory.

"Why do you want to play that whiny little thing?" Franklin sometimes asks when he wanders past as I'm warming up before a lesson.

"I didn't choose it," I tell him. "It chose me."

"Only a woman could say that," he replies.

"I am a woman. Where's your argument?"

This actually makes the blood drain from his face, and then he says something like, "Your time card is a mess. Make sure you check your hours," and moves on.

I am in love with Franklin, probably. My fantasy is that he falls in love with me, and I tell him that he should get a real job (he has an MBA from Stanford), and we move to Northern California, play our instruments for fun, and raise five children. This, of course, will never happen. And Franklin has just enough disdain for me that it's safe to fantasize about him. He is not handsome. His hair is deserting him and he's put on ten pounds since I started working here three years ago, right after my divorce. I focused my attention on him as the perfect solution to my problems, since he was so different from my ex-husband, Mark Hooper, a charismatic history professor at UCLA, who eventually gave in to the demands of some lost and weepy coed and tried to blame me for his wanderings. He said it was my desire to be a musician and my refusal to match his salary that created so much stress that he had to look elsewhere for relief. I think he never recovered from the fact that I didn't take his last name. Why would I? as bad as Pearl Swain is, Pearl Hooper is even worse. It sounds like a mail-order gadget. Tired of paying department store prices for jewelry? Try the amazing Pearl Hooper! I did that routine for him and he laughed, but ultimately he saw my refusal to take his name as an act of defiance, as if I were holding back.

Toward the end, he had a million examples like that, little ways that I had hedged my bets, shut him out. He claimed that music was my first love and there was no room for him in my heart. I think that was just a high-minded excuse for sleeping with someone else. Someone much younger, who hung on his every word, loved his big ideas, appreciated the gray in his hair, thought the extra weight looked sexy, thought the world did not appreciate his genius. Someone who saw the fictional version of him. Someone who didn't love him enough not to lie.

The truth is that Mark and Franklin are not so different at all. They are both teachers, held back by their own elitist pretensions. Mark hated teaching and believed he should be publishing popular history books. I believed he should be doing that, too. I simply thought it might be good to write those books before he grew embittered over their lack of recognition.

I took the job at McCoy's three months after Mark left me and moved in with Stephanie, the weepy coed, hoping to prove that I could make a living as a musician. It was intended to be the stepping-stone into my actual career as a full-time violinist, but three years later, I am still teaching and pretending it is the same as being a professional musician. Mark didn't get the comeuppance I had hoped for, but every now and then, when I have to call him to discuss money (he's still paying for my car), he says enigmatic and leading things like, "Pearl, you don't know how lucky you are, doing the thing you love."

I say, "aren't you doing the thing you love?"

"Of course not. You know what I want to do."

"You want to write books."

"Yes," he says, sighing.

"So write them."

He says, "Stephanie wants to have children, but we can't afford it."

"What does Stephanie do, again?" I knew, but I never tired of hearing it.

"She's a telemarketer. But she wants to teach."

God help him, he left me for a woman who hasn't even got the courage to teach.

Franklin never gives me a sideways glance, never even acknowledges that I am a woman, except to point out that women make inferior musicians. It's not because I'm ugly. It might be because I have stopped trying to be pretty.

Beauty is work, and expensive work at that. None of the models or actresses in magazines were born with any of that. They might have been born pretty, but nobody is born pretty enough. They've starved themselves, chopped up their faces, sucked the fat out of their butts and put it in their cheeks, and shot botulism into their lips, and after all that, they've still been airbrushed within an inch of their lives. catch them in a candid moment, and you'll find someone who's achy, cranky, hungry, wired, exhausted, and full of contempt for men.

In Los Angeles, these women are everywhere. You can see how miserable they all are. If you don't believe it, try cutting one of their SUVs off in traffic. They don't want to let you in. Pretty people never let you in.

I abandoned all efforts to be pretty after my marriage failed. I used to color my hair; now I just accept what God gave me, something like dull mahogany with no visible gray in a blunt shoulder-length cut. Franklin calls it lesbian hair. Most days I swoop it up in a ponytail or tuck it under a hat. I don't conceal the lines on my forehead (I've earned them) and I don't cover up broken blood vessels on my nose (my ancestors brought them over from Scotland). Sometimes I wear lipstick, but when I do, Franklin calls attention to it. He announces to everyone in the store, "Pearl has feminine aspirations today!"

The only man in the store who seems to appreciate me as I am is young Clive, who occasionally whispers to me, "You know, Joni Mitchell never wore makeup." I say to him, "If I could sing like her, I would tell you all to fuck off."

Clive grins. He likes it when I swear. I don't know why young men find foulmouthed women so appealing, but they do.

Then Clive says, still speaking of Joni Mitchell, "She could play the guitar, too. Great rhythm guitar. She was her own rhythm section."

"Don't tell anyone," I caution. "They might confiscate her guitar."

Clive thinks I am supercool because I use words like "confiscate" and I'm not afraid to say "fuck." He really likes the incongruity of my doing all that and playing the violin, which is considered an uptight person's instrument. He likes that I'm not afraid of Franklin and I actually enjoy bands with a rhythm section. I once said to him, "Music is all about timing. If you don't understand that, you don't understand the sport."

Which I believe, but it wasn't really fair to rope him in that way. Ever since then, I think he has made a solemn vow to take a bullet for me.

Clive teaches bass lessons next door to me, and sometimes I hear him yelling at his students. Sometimes I even have to tap on the door and ask him to keep it down. I do this gently, with a forefinger to my lip.

Once, as we were closing up shop, he said to me, "Why don't you ever yell at your students?"

"There's no point," I said.

"But they're so lazy."

"No, they're just frustrated. They're either doing this for their parents, which makes them miserable, or they are doing it for themselves, which makes them even more miserable."

Clive considered that for a moment, rubbing his fingers over his nascent goatee.

"You say smart things," he told me.

"No, I just say stuff out loud. It's why I can't stay married or keep a boyfriend."

"Hey," Clive said, with a degree of adolescent swagger, "if I were a few years older, you wouldn't have a problem."

He thought that was a compliment.

I wasn't always a patient teacher. This is the thing I did not say to Clive because he is too young to understand it. I was too young to understand it before it happened to me. I used to berate my students and raise my voice, and sometimes I would sigh and put my instrument away and say, "I don't see the point of this anymore."

But that was all before Hallie.

If you choose teaching as a profession, or even if you just fall into it as I did, the job is intolerable until you figure out the secret. The secret is this: your student is there to teach you, too. Before Hallie, there were things I believed that were just wrong. Notions of teaching left over from excessive viewing of The Miracle Worker. I thought I would reshape their lives. I thought I could teach them all to hear things they had never heard before.

But who can say what occurs between the vibrations of a chord, between the note's leaving the string and the wood and finding a home elsewhere? The child is thinking of other things. The child does not hear these sounds the same way.

I never knew that before. I didn't even bother to think about it.

It was Halloween, a Wednesday, when I first met Hallie. I still mark it on my calendar, and it bothers me that I do that. I wonder what I'm preserving. I wonder if I am making her or myself a martyr.

I had just dismissed my best student, a budding prodigy named Rosamund. She was ten years old and had been playing since she was six, and her parents were certain she was destined for greatness. She was, but only if she wanted it. Rosamund (and you can tell a great deal about parents from the name they choose for their only child) didn't want it. Rosamund wanted to play soccer and climb trees and do math equations. The only reason she understood anything about the violin was that she was a math whiz. Musical notation is all math, and that is why many great artists learn to play by ear. Whenever I am called upon to explain that phenomenon, I use this quote: "Some say metaphysics is for people who can't do the math. Others say that metaphysics is for people who don't need to do the math."

That is how I phrase it when I'm sober. When I've got a couple of drinks under my belt, I say, "Music is the closest you will ever get to God. Some people need to have God explained to them through scripture and ritual. Others just go right to the source."

That's why I cut down on drinking.

I had had a difficult session with Rosamund that day because I saw her enthusiasm waning, and instead of letting the whole thing play its course, and because I was convinced I needed her business, I had actually raised my voice to her a little. I said, "Rosamund, you are toiling under the illusion that music is easy. It simply isn't. You have to put in the work. If you don't practice, we are both wasting our time."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE MUSIC TEACHER by BARBARA HALL Copyright © 2009 by Barbara Hall. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Barbara Hall's novel The Music Teacher does to, and with, music teachers what Nick Hornby's High Fidelity does to, and with, record store geeks. What a smart alecky, unputdownable, brutally honest, heartbreaking glory of a book.”—Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England

“Set in a pocket of L.A. where dreams of renown are the opposite of tinsel, crackling with dialogue as sprightly as its underlying rue is compassionate, The Music Teacher is funny, brainy and touching the way only Barbara Hall can be when she's making jokes about the things that matter most to her. By the end, she'll have you wondering why in hell they don't matter this much to everybody.”—Tom Carson, author of Gilligan's Wake

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The Music Teacher 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Holly_girl More than 1 year ago
I'm afraid that any attempt by me to qualify this novel would be inadequate. It was engrossing, realistic, and simply superb. The protagonist, Pearl, is complex and sensitively portrayed, as are the quirky music store staff and students who add humor and heart to the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If I could give this less than one star I would. I can't believe I spent my time reading this way over thought, self involved book. It reminded me of "deep discussions" I had as a teen or twenty something. If that's what your up for, groovy man. (In case you missed my sarcasm, I am saying this book is a waste of your time. There are so many good books out there to enjoy. This is like a big drunken downer of a conversation.) I truly do not understand people posting superb ratings that misled me. Read the sample. I promise you that the book never gets better. If anything it swirls around the drain, lingers a bit in stagnancy and finally leaves as dirty water.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed, well written, some interesting philosophical observations, but characters with little appeal and no resolution. All in all an unfulfilling read
bibliophileofalls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a look at the world of music and musicians from a very interesting and unique vantage point. Pearl Swain, a violin teacher, divulges a sad, unfulfilled life in brief glimpses but finds her life altered forever after accepting a new student who displays a talent she had never before witnessed in her musical career. The complications derived from this relationship are many-faceted and surprising to the reader. Pearl finds herself an odd combination of teacher, pseudo-parent, friend, and analyst to her student all the while trying to reconcile her own emotions of jealousy, love, dislike, impatience and the desire to live vicariously through this student who has immeasurable talent. Pearl's co-workers are almost her only acquaintances and she develops most interesting relationships with each individual. The discussions about music between these diverse individuals, all employed at the same music store as Pearl, are in turn pretentious and revealing. I found this book to be a real page-turner and I'll definitely look for other books by this author.
dudara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pearl Swain is a violin teacher who works in a music store, along with other disillusioned adult musicians. She is someone who never really made it as a musician, although her devotion to music cost her her marriage. She now mainly teaches uninterested children and tries to avoid relationships.However, a new student enters her life, the orphan Hallie. Hallie possesses true talent and understanding of music and Pearl soons begins to dream of her future. However, it is clear that Hallie is not happy in her foster home and Pearl intrudes further than she should. Running alongside this story is the tale of Pearl's loneliness and relationships.The authors waxes repeatedly about the playing of music bringing a person closer to God and of the power of music. These philosophical ramblings did not elevate me, and to be honest, I found the main character to be annoying. She appears to be one of those annoying women who cannot leave well alone and irritate those around them. Perhaps this is the mindset of the middle-aged divorcée in Los Angeles.Ultimately, I did not realyl enjoy the novel. This was mainly due to what I perceived to be an irritating main character and an unsatisfying conclusion.
Sweet_Bee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After a longer wait than expected the advance copy of "The Music Teacher" finally arrived. At first I was so caught up in the plot development I couldn't wait for the next twist. I started to think it was the kind of book that would make a good movie (Hall writes/wrote for the television series "Judging Amy" after all), then I realized what made the novel such a compelling read was that most of what happens, happens inside of Pearl's head. Here is a 40 year old divorcee who has a very limited social circle. She is still tied to her ex through her need for his financial help. She has only one girlfriend she rarely sees and meets the remainder of her social needs through attenuated contact with a set of odd characters who work with her at the sort of music store that played so well in the film "High Fidelity." Is it any wonder that a troubled student with incredible talent draws her in? Hall is able to pull you in the same way. She begins with a story where nothing seems to be happening, at least on the surface. Before long you discover that all sorts of things are going on beneath the surface of a simply lived life. Circumstances cause Pearl to examine her own past, in looking at her student's present she gets a better handle on what makes her who she is. An awkward crush on one man evolves into an unexpected relationship with another. But best of all are her reveries on music and those who have genuine talent. It makes one envious to read her descriptions of the gifted few who can make a teacher's career. Something about the writing style charms with its simplicity. I almost want to say it goes down as easily as a Young Adult novel, knowing Hall has also written those. But what it really does is disarm you while delivering a very adult message about love, and art, and the big questions that everyone must face somewhere down the road to maturity.
pmla1028 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed The Music Teacher. It is the story of a frustrated musician, a disillusioned middle aged women, and a wandering soul. Peearl Swain knows she will never be a great musician, so she tries to be a good teacher. Most of her students are forced to be there, and will soon abandon the music which is the fabric of her life. The ones with a glimmer of aptitude are pushed by over zealous parents. One of her students, though talented, has a special challenge to overcome. Because the girl is so gifted, Pearl tells her she must make sacrifices in order continue her pursuit of music. Pearl realizes that some sacrifices are too great.This is well written, with engaging, eccentric characters. While part of me wanted to know more about what happened to Hallie, her star student, I realize that this was a story about Pearl and the people that pass through this phase of her life are just the back drop.
mckait on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book that is rather hard for me to define. It is, most of all, a book about a woman that never really knew who she was. Even by age forty, Pearl was unable to define herself with any confidence. It seemed to me that she was moving purposelessly through life, waiting for someone else to tell her what her life's purpose was to be. This was perhaps due to the fact that she was allowed to drift through her childhood without the anchor of love and security that she craved. An intuitive and empathetic woman, she taught music in a small music store. The other characters were mostly other musicians who put in some time working behind the counter of this small independent music shop. They were an idiosyncratic crew, brilliant like so many artists, and flawed like all people everywhere. Rather than developing any close friendships, they seemed to be at odds with each other, for the most part.Pearl's interaction with the children that she taught was an important aspect of this novel . She came closest to feeling as if she could define herself when she was teaching. Without a doubt she was a caring teacher at times. Other times found her as much at odds with her students as she was with her colleagues.The characters are compelling and rich. For this reason, it is well worth reading. The story itself is well told and a bonus.
mlanzotti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Is a teacher acting for the good of a student or for vicarious gain? If one has been betrayed how do you learn trust? What is the nature of music and the people who need to play it? And, can a 40 year old woman find sexual satisfaction and love with a twenty seven year old "hunk"? All these questions are explored in this short and soulful novel.
revzonian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was hooked at first, especially with an opening: "I AM THE MEAN music teacher. I am that cranky woman you remember from your youth, the one whose face you dreaded seeing, whose breath you dreaded smelling as I leaned over you, tugging at your fingers. You made jokes about me, drew caricatures of me in your notebooks, made puns out of my name, swore never to be me. Well, listen. I swore never to be me, too." I was intrigued and I wanted to know what happened to her student who had "it." And, of course, I wanted to know why she was so bitter. This was well-written and it made it a quick-read. Pearl Swain learns to accept the past, present, and creates a new future for herself as she evaluates the events in her life. I did struggle towards the end, but enjoyed it overall. I am going to read some of Hall's other works. Thank you, Algonquin, for the advanced copy of The Music Teacher; I now have a new author and publisher to explore.
MsGemini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In The Music Teacher, Barbara Hall introduces us to Pearl Swain. A forty-year old women still searching for her place in the world. Pearl meets many interesting people throughout her life but, it is when she is teaching music, she finds those who have the most impact on her. Pearl Swain tells this wonderful story from page one all the way to the end. She introduces us to several complicated individuals along the way. She allows us to enter her world and know just what she is thinking. I found myself wanting to read more and not wanting to put this one down until the end.As mentioned by Barbara Hall in the synopsis of her book our culture tends to view success and achievement above all else. I found Pearl to follow these ways of modern day culture. As a Mom, I was able to relate to many of the feelings Pearl had towards her students. I have many of the same feelings toward my child. We know they have the talent and we want them to experience success in life but is this what is most important?I would definitely recommend reading this gem. I know I will look for more works by Barbara Hall.
sharlene_w on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Small format -- really a novella, a quick read to be sure, but with a powerful message--really live your life. Told in first person, the music teacher moves through her life with feelings of inadequacy and not feeling loved. It is a story about taking charge of your life and making a decision to be present in it. Well written with a few very profound moments. I received a copy of this through LT's Early Reviewer program.
hammockqueen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quite a good novel. Well written with exact and tight characters.....not a bunch of hard to remember people. The music teacher gains some wonderful insights into her self with students like Hallie and Lance. They are students with talent and troubles. I loved the phrase about music :"it feels as if you are picking up the voices of the ages, the screams or the prayers of the dying, the joy of the triumphant"
akowen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a musician, I was drawn to the premise of this book--a violinist (Pearl) become music teacher who comes to know herself through her relationships with her students. The story of Hallie, the could-be prodigy, is both heart-wrenching and frustrating, and without being totally explicit, changes both the lives of both Hallie and Pearl. The character portrayals of the different musicians that work in the music store capture the "neuroses" that can inhabit the lives of musicians. I was curious about the constant references to church, God, the divine, that did not seem to have a basis in the narrator's (Pearl) life. Yes, she had attended church (which a friend encouraged her to use as a weekly momentary escape from real life), but I didn't see the connection to the religious insights throughout the book. That doesn't discount the fact that I found them worthy. Overall, a good read, especially for one who calls him- or herself a musician.
mdexter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Music itself is a character in this novel by screenwriter Barbara Hall. It is Pearl Swain¿s relationship with music that is the centerpiece of the story. Pearl is a music teacher, not a professional musician, and it is her feelings of failure in her relationship with music that drives her, so much so that she begins to identify with one of her gifted students, Hallie. She sees in Hallie her own angry relationship with the world and projects her own tragedy. In the climax of the novel, Pearl crosses the line with Hallie and this forces her to reevaluate her life and her choices.Hall does a beautiful job at describing the power of music, even getting into its science. But as a character, music as portrayed here is not very appealing. In one scene, Pearl¿s friend Leah chastises Pearl for her inability to live in the world. She says, ¿Even your music makes you sad¿It never puts you in the moment or makes you look ahead.¿ That pretty much summarizes the feel of this book. Even though Pearl achieves an epiphany of sorts at the end, you never really feel she¿s conquered her demons.
detailmuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"I started playing the violin when I was ten," The Music Teacher¿s 40-year-old narrator, Pearl Swain, writes. "Two years too late, I was eventually told, to become a great violinist."Still, Pearl is a very good violinist, and after she suffers another dashed dream -- a divorce -- she begins to teach violin lessons at a small music shop that is staffed by an eclectic group of clerks and musicians. But Pearl's self-esteem is not even good, much less great, and when she encounters a new student -- a troubled prodigy named Hallie -- she must deal with the consequences of pursuing her ambitions through her student.The novel's time management sometimes got a little muddy, and I anticipated (and wanted) more pages with Hallie. But Pearl's first-person narration captured me -- her gentle exploration of music, musicians, and instruments; of mentors, loneliness, and love.
MaryKay1822 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have never played a musical instrument but as another reviewer stated, when reading this book I found myself envious of the abilities of Pearl the music teacher and her prize student, Hallie. The common thread in this book is the profound effect music and musical ability can have on a person's life sometimes not always positively. Some people listen to music occasionally, primarily as a background noise , but then there are people like Pearl who eat, breathe and sleep music . I almost get the feeling that there is a soundtrack playing along as she goes about her daily life. Everything in her life is determined by her love/hate relationship with her music.I found the characters in the music store very well written. I would have liked to get to know Hallie better, for some reason I didn't relate to her as well. However the character of Pearl I loved. I found myself turning the pages anxious to find out what her life might become. I wanted more for her even when it always seemed she was willing to accept less. I would recommend this book for the story it tells and also for the opportunity to get to know Pearl.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a particularly well-written novel or autobiography? The storyteller is basically so unhappy and angry that it sets a negative mood throughout. The references to the violin were knowledgeable and interesting. The relationships teetered on negativity and incomprehensibility with vague outcomes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is small but mighty. Physics, emotions, music, manipulation, maturing, lies and truth. A music teacher who lives to be "fed" by a virtuoso. She's given up on everything else. Nothing is perfect, there is no happily ever after, but occassionally she hears just. The right. Notes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago