It’s music to their ears

Posted 8/31/23

They each came to this area from other regions of Texas and with one stop in between – from Wellington to Granbury to Quitman, and from Grand Prairie to Providence to Mineola. The two ladies, …

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It’s music to their ears


They each came to this area from other regions of Texas and with one stop in between – from Wellington to Granbury to Quitman, and from Grand Prairie to Providence to Mineola. The two ladies, Connie Emmert and Gail Hall, have for several years been bringing the joy which is piano to Quitman and Mineola, respectively. They continue to influence generations of developing musicians through their musical passion.

Each shared a unique and very personal description of the art of the piano.

Emmert offered, “It is haunting to me…the feeling and imagination, solace and comfort.”

Hall best described her affection for piano music with the comment, “It is a complete language all to itself.”

The women endeavor to expose local residents to the comfort and the language of music through their lessons conducted at their homes. 

While each has developed their individual businesses, they share some interesting commonalities. Both were most heavily influenced by musically-inclined parents. 

Hall’s parents, Gil and Eloise Mabry, kept a stack of 1940s sheet music in the piano bench at home and would play it for fun. Emmert’s father, Carthel Lewis – a cotton farmer by trade – was also a pianist.

In one example of just how powerful the love of music was in their families, Emmert recounted how at the age of 93, her father – who was living with her at  the time – would hobble to the closed door and stand just outside the room while she was conducting lessons.

“I would hear his walker click against the floor as he walked to the door to listen to the music,” she recalled.

The love of music and specifically the love of the piano pretty much filled both young ladies’ lives. 

Hall began to pick up music passages by ear in the third grade. In the convention of that generation, her ability to play by ear earned her formal piano training.

“It was thought that reading music was the only proper way to learn at that time,” she reported.

Likewise, Emmert also received formal instruction.

“Mrs. Harper – I never knew her first name – was my teacher,” she noted. By age 12, Emmert was playing piano and organ at the First United Methodist Church of Wellington. 

The church was central to each musician’s development. Hall as well performed countless hours with the youth choir at the First Baptist Church of Grand Prairie.

Their stories diverge at this point as Hall was encouraged by her instructor, renown pianist Jo Boatright, to pursue a career as a concert pianist. She would not be the last person who made this recommendation. 

Hall was gifted in reading the language of musical scores.

She explained, “I just loved the concept of having a set measure of time and having to fill that time, exactly, with the most beautiful music.”

She delved into scoring, rhythmic and two-part dictation, and she transposed music for ensembles. She also played as an accompanist for operettas while in college.

Despite this exposure to the more technical side of music, Hall came to pursue the same course as Emmert – that of mother, church-musician and piano teacher.

“I had my own vision of how music was to fit into my life,” Hall remarked.    

To understand the prominent role that the piano played in both their lives, one must only consider that as a young girl, Emmert played through a West Texas tornado. It  had passed so close to the house that “the pipes were buzzing.” 

The piano was central to them both as they raised their children. Those connections yet exist today. Emmert now plays at the Grace Methodist Church in Sulphur Springs where her son, Spencer, is the music director. Hall is yet teaching (remotely) her granddaughter, Janice, who is attending Rice University.

The balance of their lessons, today, however are youngsters just being introduced to the ivories. Each teacher uses a variety of affiliations to highlight a young musicians’ talents. There are auditions with the American College of Musicians, the Texas Federation of Music Clubs, the National Guild of Piano Teachers and local festivals.  

As Hall noted, “It is always exciting to see the little light bulbs go on.” According to the two instructors, a prospective pianist does not have to be especially artistic. Rather, it is a commitment to practice and effort which are the critical components. 

It is also not only a female talent. Emmert noted that she has football players on her class roster. 

As youngsters mature at different rates, the piano teachers advised allowing an extended period of time to determine if the piano is a good fit for a child. Hall suggested a full two years to determine fitness for the piano.

One thing is clear – local residents are blessed to have instructors in the arts who love their trade.

As Emmert remarked, “The piano has always been a part of my life.”

Hall added, “I think of music literally all the time.”