- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Nearly 80 years after she played her last note, 94-year-old Mary Grindstaff has started taking lessons again to play violin, decades after her family was forced to sell her prized possession to help support them during the Great Depression.

Grindstaff lives most of the year in Norwich, Connecticut, in the same home she’s been in for the last 67 years. She spends winters in Rochester with her daughter, Carol Clark.

“My mother would always tell me stories about when she was a little girl, she would take violin lessons during the Depression but her family had to sell it,” Clark said. “A little while ago, she told me she’d like to start playing again.”

“Back then, you could take a lesson for one dollar,” Grindstaff said. “I started playing when I was 9 and played for about three years before my family had to sell it in order to put food on the table. Back then nobody had money.”

Just before Thanksgiving last year, Clark was able to find a classic violin from the 1900s at an auction, but it needed a lot of work in order to play again. She brought it to Milton Jackson at The Broken Fiddle, who restores violins and teaches lessons out of his home in West Lebanon, Maine.

For Christmas this year, Clark presented her mother with a fully restored violin, just like she had when she was young.

“I thought I was going to cry,” Grindstaff said. “She said she had a surprise for me, and a week before my kids surprised me with the medals my husband earned when he was in the Navy, and I cried then, too.”

Every other Saturday since the beginning of January, Clark drives her mother to Jackson’s home for lessons. They meet in a wood-paneled, acoustically-warm second-floor room Jackson built above his repair shop and home office.

Jackson has been teaching lessons since 1984. He settled in Lebanon after retiring from the Air Force in 1973, and was a clerk at the Lebanon Post Office until he retired from that job in 2000.

“I’m a spring chicken compared to Mary,” Jackson, who is 82, said with a laugh. “She is a very good student and a real sweetheart.”

After tuning her violin and tightening the hairs on the bow, they sit side-by-side in front of sheet music as Jackson demonstrates a progression of notes and chords that Mary plays back. He offers critique, always the most positive kind.

“You’re doing very well, sweetie,” Jackson says to Grindstaff.

For the next exercise, when they work on transitioning chords, Grindstaff uses her fingers to press down on the strings while Jackson uses the bow so she can focus on how she should be moving her fingers.

Within minutes, both Jackson and Grindstaff are playing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” one of the first songs many people learn when they begin playing an instrument and presumably, a song Grindstaff played in the 1930s.

“It’s starting to come back to me,” Grindstaff said. “I used to play by ear, and I’ve picked up some things I used to remember like the strings. I have a hard time putting my fingers on the strings because I have arthritis. Jackson is a very patient teacher.”

“My mother is very sharp for 94,” Clark said. “She still lives in the same house I grew up in and even does her own checkbook.”

Grindstaff says she’s blessed to have five generations of family in her life, and can easily tell you about her six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and one great-great-granddaughter, who was born a few months ago.

“My grandkids are waiting on me to perform for them and I told them don’t expect too much,” she joked. “I hope I can at least play a tune for them.”





Information from: Foster’s Daily Democrat, https://www.fosters.com



Click to Read More

Click to Hide