Friday, December 6, 2013

Reports of a vast conspiracy. . .

My mother purchased a spinet piano and had it delivered to our home with the warning to my brother and me:  I gave up a decent couch and a chair so that you could learn to play the piano.  I am not sure that I had articulated such a request and I am pretty sure my brother had never uttered such a desire, but, nonetheless, we had a piano and we were going to learn to play it or die trying.

So began my weekly trips to the home of Myrtle Segerdahl, local piano teacher, to train my untrained fingers, hands, and head.  She had a very fine upright (perhaps even a Steinway upright grand or at least a decent Baldwin) and we began to make our way through the books.  Each year was a recital at the Community Auditorium on their antiquated grand piano and a goodly number of town residents and country folk came to observe the progress.

About twelve or so it was announced that our parish organist was going to be gone and I was going to play for services on the old but well preserved Estey tracker at Golgotha Lutheran Church.  That prompted another set of lessons from the same Miss Segerdahl to see if the moribund progress I was making on the piano could be translated into some level of competency playing the liturgy and hymns.  Where I was thoroughly bored with the endless piano exercises she assigned, I loved playing the hymns.  I believe I got $3 a week for playing at Church and this was probably less than we were paying Miss Segerdahl at the time.  As parents, my wife and I continued the tradition by taking our children to Mrs. Killibrew's house to do for my three youngins.   

Little did I know that I had entered the den of iniquity now portrayed as an anti-competitive, price fixing, scheme by little old ladies all across America.  Or so the Federal Trade Commission sees it.  There is nothing that the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Carnegie's did that, much to my surprise, Miss Segerdahl did -- at least according to the suspicious nature of the FTC.

The Wall Street Journal has chronicled the investigation of Music Teachers National Association, a non-profit professional group of mostly piano teachers established in 1876 to support and encourage what has always been a miserable way to make money.  Now they have smelled blood and are after these robber barons in the same way hard charging Teddy Roosevelt took after Standard Oil.  Could this be a joke?  I wish it were.  There are fewer piano teachers than there once were, their income has not kept pace with inflation, and they piano is in danger of being pushed aside in favor of the more generic keyboard.

In March of this year, a small nonprofit in Cincinnati—the Music Teachers National Association—received a letter from the FTC. The agency was investigating whether the association was engaged in, uh, anticompetitive practices.

This was bizarre, given that the MTNA has existed since 1876 solely to advance the cause of music study and support music teachers. The 501(c)(3) has about 22,000 members, nearly 90% of them piano teachers, including many women who earn a modest living giving lessons in their homes. The group promotes music study and competitions and helps train teachers. Not exactly U.S. Steel.

Is it no wonder why we have a shortage of organists and pianists!  They fear getting caught up in the tentacles of a price fixing, anti-competitive, robber baron scheme to defraud the good children of America and defund  their parents wallets!  God save us!  Praise Jesus for the wily sleuths of the Obama Administration sorting out evil and injustice at every turn!

HT to my friends for the WSJ link and for the other blogs who likewise have passed on the horrid tale of abuse, injustice, and greed.

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