Piano Lessons And Bread Making

31 05 2008

I enjoy playing on the piano that my father gave my mother about l948.  As a little girl I was fascinated with the piano.  My mother gave my older brother lessons.  However,  she didn’t think I was old enough to teach.  I used to open the beginner book and teach myself the very basics.  My brother only got through  John Thompson’s  first grade book. The allure of playing neighborhood baseball with all of his friends took precedence.   My parent’s marriage was crumbling and music lessons of any kind ended.

My mother moved our family to her hometown in Kentucky.  The piano was shipped and we were all excited when it arrived.  Mother never enjoyed playing the piano again.  She rarely played for her own joy.  A cousin taught me how to put my two hands together.  Later, mother let me take piano lessons.  However, most of what I learned came from my own teaching.  Later in college I took lessons once again.  The icing on the cake for me was to take from a very professional teacher for about four years and polishing that off with a year of professional music studies at Austin Peay State University.  This was in my late forties and early fifties.  Inbetween all of this training I played the piano for several churches.  I studied organ with my professional teacher and substituted for him at his church for three summers–as he  and his wife spent each summer in Maine.

Now I’m trying to build a small business out of my home.  I keep my prices very modest because I want to attract either young people who can’t afford music lessons or older adults who would never pay the professional price to learn.  My nitch is teaching older people or young adults.  Word is spreading and I’m getting more students.  I have two inspirations.  One is a lady of 68 who is taking piano to keep her brain in good shape.  When she came to me in January– she knew very little about music.  Now she is learning all kinds of musical concepts.  My other inspiration is my daughter, Vera.

I taught Vera when she was a small child.  Her interest waned and thus we stopped.  I’ve discovered a wonder series for adults.  It is the Alfred series.  By the time one is finished with the first adult book–one will have learned  a great deal about music theory.  Vera took herself through the first book.  She really didn’t need my help.  In fact, she didn’t need my help until about the middle of the second book.  Now I schedule her in like I would any other student and help her fine tune the pieces she is working on.  She has accomplished all of this in eleven weeks.  However, she has spent about an hour a day on the piano.  I love teaching young and older adults.  I try to stress the joy of music first and foremost.  Probably none of my students will ever do professional things with their music.  But they can feel good about themselves for learning a new skill much later in life.  And there is another skill worth learning for people of all ages.  That is the skill of baking bread.

My bread making started in my early married years.  I failed in making yeast bread.  My attempts always met with defeat.  I finally gave up and just made dessert breads with baking powder.  Later, I learned that one can make yeast bread in a crock pot.  I ordered a bread and cake pan to go in my crock pot.  I then had success with making yeast bread.  However, I yearned to be successful with kneading dough.

I attempted this again in 2004.  I devoted an entire summer to learning how to make bread by kneading the dough –then letting it rise.  I had some real disasters at first.  Cookbooks make it look so easy.  They fail to give little tips.  One day when I was browsing through books at a Goodwill Store , I found this book:  Beard On Bread by James Beard.  He gave steps and tips that are just not available in the general cookbook.  The primary reason many yeast breads fail is because the temperature is not correct for the yeast.  The temperature has to be just warm enough to dissolve the yeast.  Sugar then has to be added.  He says to wait for a couple of minutes after the sugar is added.  Bubbles will pop up all over the place.  When this happens the other ingredients can be added.  Bread is always messy at the beginning stages.  Another tip I found was to put my bread batter on floured wax paper.  Keep a cup of flour ready to deal with stickiness.  Eventually the sticky dough will give way to a smooth satin like quality.  It will be easy then to knead.

I made all of our bread when Jim was off work for four months recovering from major surgery.  Then when I went back to work as a substitute  teacher–bread making ended.  I lost interest for almost two years.  However, a couple of weeks ago the desire came back.  In a sense I am working about 25 hours a week between my piano students and taking care of my grandsons.  So time is still a factor for me.  I’m using an old recipe from a l960’s Betty Crocker Cookbook.   The recipe is for  Potato  Refrigerator Dough.  It is wonderful because I can make the dough up after supper and it rises in the refrigerator all night.

I’ve made these  adaptations to the recipe.  It calls for 2/3 cup sugar.  I use only 1/3 cup of sugar. It also called for 2/3 cup shortening.  I use 2/3 cups of olive oil.  So here is how I make it.  Before supper boil some water and mix with enough instant potatoes to make one cup of potatoes. Let it cool while you are serving supper.  Then dissolve 1 package of active dry yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water.  Add 1/3 cup sugar.  Wait for it to bubble.  Pour this into a large bowl.  Mix with the 2/3 cups of oil, potatoes, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and four cups of flour.  Then add  another 3 cups of flour.  Put wax paper down and flour it.  Place this mixture on the waxed paper.  Keep a cup of flour handy.  Work with this sticky dough until it becomes like satin.  Then make a ball out of the dough.  Spray it with vegetable oil and play in a large bowl that has also been sprayed.  Cover it with dish towels and place in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning punch down the the dough and divide it into two balls.  I place each ball on waxed paper.  I roll it out flat then roll it into a cylinder shape.  Pinch the ends and place in a greased pan.  Once again, cover the dough with a dish towel.  Let it set for an hour and half.  I bake it slowly at 300 degrees.The bread is done when it has a nice brown look.  I would rather do this than have it accidently burn.  The bread comes out beautifully.  It makes wonderful toast.

Happy Breadmaking!





7 responses

1 06 2008

I haven’t had a go at breadmaking yet although I am very fasinated with the concept. But if I do, I would definitely need help with the kneeding as my wrists aren’t that strong… 😦

2 06 2008

I bet you could make a great batch of bread. Have fun with it. Your wrists don’t have to be stong to knead bread.


6 06 2008
Daniel E. Friedman

I like how your story combines two appealing topics. As a piano teacher, I felt like teaching immediately after having read your article. Your article also made me very extremely hungry!

Thanks for the entertaining read.

6 06 2008
David Web


The bread sounds wonderful, and I can just hear Vera playing the piano while you make the bread. Those are the kinds of things you can cherish. Best of luck with your piano teaching business. Music is a wondefule gift to share.

Little Brother

6 06 2008

What a nice surprise to hear from another piano teacher. Thank you for your kind words. I’m looking forward to browsing your website.


6 06 2008

Little brother,
Thanks again for checking in with me. You are a great cook. Why don’t you try to make this recipe.


21 09 2008
Cynthia Marie VanLandingham

I love your inspiring article, and it’s so kind of you to share your story with others. I too remember the John Thompson’s Book and still have the first one I played from when I was a little girl.

I love your concern for children that comes through your writing and I’m sure your teaching. Your personal story is an example of how sharing experience helps kids and adults overcome learning barriers.

I’ve been teaching piano in Tallahassee, Florida for 20 years and have found a great way to encourage children from all walks of life to work hard to pursue their musical potential – with piano stories that give all children a family of characters who each offer experience that kids can gain from.

Children love stories, and they are a great way to teach important lessons and motivate young girls and boys. I find that most young students who are starting music lessons have lots of questions, and all beginning students must learn how to develop good practice habits. My Piano Bears Musical Storybooks provide a wonderful way to inspire young piano students and help them succeed. These books use the characters of Little Bear, who is just starting to take piano lessons, his friends and family, and Mrs. Treble Beary, his teacher. In the stories, Little Bear, with the help of his family and friends, learns how to overcome his worries and set positive goals to achieve his musical dream.

In my studio, we give these books to all new students aged six to eleven at their first piano lesson. These fun stories help our students understand what piano lessons are like, resolve their worries about starting something new, and help them begin to develop the practice routines and habits that are so critical to their success.
Piano Bears Musical Storybooks include the following materials.

1. Little Bear’s Musical Garden.

This beautifully illustrated story sets young students at ease and gives them confidence in their own ability to learn piano. The story follows Little Bear as he begins piano lessons and asks questions that all beginning students have. Children enjoy reading the storybook with their parents and grandparents, who learn great ways to encourage their children in piano.

Little Bear’s Musical Garden CD-ROM allows children to hear a narrated version of this story as they read along as the pages automatically turn. (Kids love to be read to). The CD-ROM also includes a fun, interactive quiz that helps students remember the important story concepts that will help them succeed. (AND BTW – YOU CAN ALSO GET IT ON DVD!)

2. Little Bear’s Piano Goals.

This beautifully illustrated story continues Little Bear’s adventures as he learns how to tend to his musical garden and achieve his musical dreams. Little Bear, with the help of his family and his neighbor Mr. Green Bear, a master gardener, learns how to set and work toward the goals that will lead to his musical growth and success.

3. Piano Bear’s Musical Storybook Journal.

This illustrated journal provides a fun way to keep track of weekly piano assignments and goals. It also provides big keyboard pictures that make it easy for their teacher to indicate hand positions, scales, chords, and fingering. The journal also includes pages for recital photos and achievement stickers, and provides a wonderful memory book for students and their parents to keep forever!

Any teacher or parent can find thesethese materials on my website at http://www.PianoBears.com

I hope you’ll find these stories inspirational and useful in your teaching career.

Warmest regards,

Cynthia Marie VanLandingham

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