Sunday, July 26, 2015

Homage to a Great One

When I was 16 years old or so, I had an opportunity to learn piano from one of the great instructors in our community.  Nevelyn Knisely was a retired professor from Lebanon Valley College, a local college which specializes in music performance and instruction.  My mother had apparently asked a friend from church whose husband also works at the college for references of a good piano instructor for me.  I loved playing and had somewhat outgrown my previous teachers.  Our friend recommended Nevelyn highly, and I began playing again under her tutelage.

We focused primarily on modern classics with swift tempos which would entertain audiences.  Nevelyn enjoyed fast fingers, and had be practicing with two-handed double octave scales.  I tired of that quickly and soon wanted to quit.  I preferred to play pieces for enjoyment, and could not be bothered with rote scales, as cool as they were at first.  

I remember having her call on the phone, after my mom told her I wanted to stop.  "Please don't quit," she said.  "You've got such talent.  It would just be such a shame to see you quit.  Please just keep on playing.  We don't have to do scales."  So I continued on.  

Somewhere in my home I'm sure I have the recital pieces we played.  She would have each of her students do a solo piece, and then at the end she did 4 handed duets with all of us.  Those were some of the funnest pieces, and truly instilled a joy in me for playing which I had not experienced doing solos. 

Several years ago when I first began playing on my electric piano (gasp!), I had a prompting that when I returned to Pennsylvania, I ought to see if I could find Nevelyn and thank her for keeping me going.  When I returned, I asked my friend if Nevelyn was still alive, and she said that she was, but that she had Alzheimer's and was living in a nursing home.  I was prompted to go find her and play for her, even if she couldn't remember me.  But I let life get in the way.  

Eight days ago, as I sat down to practice the organ music for the upcoming Sunday, I had a similar prompting.  Go play for Nevelyn.  Music speaks to the mind and heart in ways that words cannot always reach.  Even if she wouldn't remember me, maybe the music would speak to her?  So at church the next day, I asked my friend again, "Have you heard how Nevelyn is?  Is she still among the living?"  She confirmed that she believed so, and that she was still in the nursing home.  

I intended to go visit her later that day, and got distracted.  I also felt lazy, and was intimidated with trying to figure out how to find her at this nursing home.  Really, could it be all that hard?  So I neglected the prompting, again.  

Thursday night... reminded in spirit again... Go play for Nevelyn.  

Friday afternoon, received an email from my friend.  She says it's interesting that I asked her last Sunday how Nevelyn was, as she had passed away the night before.  Ugh.  No.  No, no, no!  

Here is her obituary.  Her work was so prolific that they named an award at the college after her.  What a rare feat!  What a woman!

I am convinced that she was one of the great ones referenced in Abraham 3:22.  
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good...
Reading Nevelyn's obituary inspires me.  It's amazing what one person can fit into a lifetime, all before 16 years of Alzheimer's.  Today in Sunday School, the mutual friend from church mentioned that Luke 24:32 inspired the song "Thy Spirit Lord, Has Stirred Our Souls".  I have to believe that Nevelyn surely received the spiritual gift of music, and transferred the blessing of it to hundreds, if not thousands of individuals.  What a gift to the planet!  Thank you, God, for sweet Nevelyn Knisely.  I am truly sorry I didn't follow that prompting, as it would have been a memorable gift to have played for her one last time.  I keep praying that a raincheck will suffice, and maybe someday we'll have a chance to play together again.  I really hope so.  In the meantime I'll keep practicing, even if I'm wearing headphones and "no one else" can hear me.   

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