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Use Music to Help Girls Shine

Elisheva Appel

Her Yiddish-speaking band hits all the right notes

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

shiur

 


Name: Hindy Ausch

Location: Boro Park, Brooklyn

Dream: Use music to help girls shine

 

I grew up in a happy, fun-loving, chassidish home. My mother, a creative soul, encouraged us to use our talents, and our house was never too messy for yet one more project. Our bedroom, crammed with four beds end to end, was further crowded by loads of masterpieces and keepsakes from our various artistic endeavors.

The most desirable pursuit of all, though, was the one avenue that was closed to me. In our principled home, the practice was not to play music, as a sign of mourning for the Beis Hamikdash. That was incredibly hard for me, and I desperately grabbed every opportunity to play and listen to music at friends’ and relatives’ homes.

When I was in seventh grade, my parents relented to my entreaties and purchased a cheap keyboard. The agreement was that I’d play it only on Motzaei Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, or other special occasions, and never merely for fun.

I kept my end of the deal. The moment Havdalah ended, I’d run to my beloved keyboard and play for six or seven hours straight, not stopping for so much as a drink of water. On Rosh Chodesh, I’d skip the special activities in school in order to be able to spend more time at my keyboard.

During those marathon sessions, I actually managed to teach myself music. I listened to classical music and learned to play it by ear, then began reading up on music theory. Every time I attended a school play or event that featured a band, I’d approach the pianist for tips, and I’d record her playing in order to study it later.

I learned a lot with this do-it-yourself way, but eventually prevailed on my mother to send me for a real lesson.

It was a disaster. A rigid, authoritarian maestro from the former Soviet Union, the instructor told me bluntly that I knew nothing about music, and I’d have to start from scratch. I was so far from being a music student, in her estimation, that she even refused to take my money. Deeply hurt by her callous dismissal of my years of hard work, I ran out and cried and cried.

Sensing how crucial learning music was to me, my mother suggested I call a pianist I’d met in camp. This time, I found someone who understood the different forms talent can take, and wasn’t hung up on one particular inflexible structure. From her, I was able to learn the rules of music in just a short time.

I launched my music education career just out of high school. I learned how to teach music, how to break down the concepts so girls can absorb them. I messed up the first few lessons; I later realized that I’d been trying to teach ten lessons’ worth of material in a single session, and the girls had walked out with their heads spinning. Learning how to get into the student’s brain was a challenge.

Eventually, I learned how to pace my lessons, creating an original curriculum that uses contemporary music the girls already love. Once I’d mastered that, I was able to start branching out, launching my business, Harmonies, which provides private music classes. I train each of our nearly two dozen instructors in my original methods, provide individualized lesson plans for every student, and personally track their progress.

The next frontier was finding a venue for my girls’ talents. It started with a call from Satmar Bikur Cholim of Monroe; they needed entertainment for an event, but couldn’t find anything suitable. Could I possibly put together a chassidish band?

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 643)

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