The Incredible Mary Bigler

In Joy Returns!, I wrote about a nine-year-old girl, Samantha, and her relationship with her teacher, Elaine Desmond. When I was a child, I also studied piano. I had the good fortune to have Mary Bigler as my teacher.

Through music, Mary Bigler provided me with a portal to another world. She demonstrated the inherent magic of a metronome. She gave me stars in my notebook. She also didn't cut me any slack. One summer, I announced to her that I didn't want to study scales. I privately thought that scales were tedious. In the summertime, in my opinion, people should play show tunes on the piano. However, Mary Bigler stood strong. She told that scales were a necessary part of my education, and that, as a pianist, I was at the stage of development where I needed to study them. I looked into her determined face, and I agreed to apply myself. That summer, I practiced scales.

I often wonder now what would have happened if my family hadn't moved away. Would I have stayed on course? If had been under Mary Bigler's watch, could I have navigated my way through adolescence and continued to play? I will never know. Instead I stopped. I forgot. Many years passed before I remembered the joy I used to feel playing the piano.

When I started writing Joy Returns!, I felt the need to try to look up Mary Bigler. Through the power of the Internet, I found her. She has this great website. There's a video on her home page, I would say it’s a mission statement, where she starts with a knock-knock joke. When I saw that video, my heart sang. I contacted Mary Bigler. She remembered me! She was kind enough to answer my e-mail and talk to me on the phone. After our conversation, I felt like my bones had been put back in place again.

Mary Bigler continues to work in the field of education as a teacher, author, and inspirational speaker. After I discovered her site, I ordered her book in audio form, so I could hear her voice telling stories of how she has championed people throughout her career. Mary Bigler will always be one of my favorite teachers. She continues to inspire me.