I am writing this tribute in fond memory of Bob Stookesbury, a very kind, warm-hearted and talented gentleman who passed away unexpectedly on Thursday.
I want to thank Bob for his patience with me; he was my first adult student and my first time trying to teach someone much older than myself. He graciously and politely accepted my impetuous way of diving headfirst into a solution, sometimes moving so fast that he would just stare at the keyboard in disbelief. After which we would both start laughing at our respective selves. The fact that he was willing to take directives and suggestions from someone young enough to be his daughter is a testament to his love for music, intelligence and good humor.... he always approached his music enthusiastically and was willing to change his trusted ways of playing when he could see they were no longer the best.
Bob was not always the perfect piano student.....he would think up various ways to distract us from tackling his repertoire when he hadn't practiced: too-long stories about mundane trips to the computer store, videos on youtube, his choir music. All the time we would both pretend that we didn't know what he was doing. Eventually he would come clean and we would both laugh about it.
He was indeed a very wonderful person, and I am so fortunate that he touched my life for the brief year that he was my piano student. In some ways, though we both enjoyed working through his piano lessons so much, I know he was more my teacher than I his. He taught me that it is far more important to walk next to a student, if not a little behind, allowing them to find their own ways and paths rather than cutting the trail for them. When I would try to force my way of doing things on him, he would quietly show me that this approach does not inspire students. We would discover and accomplish so much more when he would show me what he wanted to learn, rather than what I thought he "should" be learning.
I will always remember our last lesson fondly and a little bittersweetly. We had always enjoyed our lessons together, but this particular one we both had a HUGE dose of the giggles, chuckles, and outright laughs. At one point, Bob had to bring a box of Kleenex to the piano because his eyes were watering from laughing and coughing too hard. I am sad to lose such a warm and wonderful person, but happy that our last time together was filled with pure joy.
Thank you Bob, though you would sometimes ski instead of practice, for showing me how to be a better person and teacher. I hope you are still laughing and hearing beautiful music always.