Mr. T – Rachel Payne

Just like the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, it takes a plethora of teachers and mentors to raise a performer. Today I’m going to focus on just one who was absolutely influential in my development as a musician and artist.

He was taller than me when I first joined the orchestra in sixth grade. Little did I know then, that this teacher was to be a fixture in my education until I graduated from High School.

I have worked with many talented, dedicated and amazing musicians. But no one has ever been as in love with the work as this teacher. He and his wife weren’t able to have children, and I often have felt that the love he would have showered on them, was in many ways given to us.

Some people hated rehearsals. He was very strict. He required us to really listen, to have discipline. There were rehearsals where we only worked on a piece for five minutes because while tuning someone kept talking. We would “begin again. If you are talking” he would say, “you can not listen.” For me, this time was what I lived for each day. Honestly, this is what got me through the treacherous years of adolescence. Orchestra was a respite, a time to sink into a piece and explore the possibilities of a musical line, whether the cellos had the melody, or not, it was a haven for me.

The first few years in orchestra, you’d address him as you would any teacher, “Mr. So-n-so” but if you stuck with it, in High School you were allowed to call him “Sam.” Around that same time, I realized I had grown taller than him.

There was something very liberating about a teacher whose trust you had really earned, who viewed you as a colleague because of your persistence in the development of your craft. To this day when I see Sam, he reminds me that I owe him two tickets to my Carnegie Hall debut. The time will come when I make good on that promise. And I owe much of the fulfillment of it to his inspiration.

I studied under his baton for six years. But because of the love and joy of the music that he gave me, regardless of stature, I know I will always look up to Sam.

Rachel Payne-Soprano

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