In Due Time
By Julie Zack Yaste
Mr. D had been teaching violin for more than half a century by the time I came to him as a kid. I was intimidated at first. He was older than my grandfather, and he could be stern.
I hardly remember those early days now. Instead, I remember working on advanced techniques and cracking jokes. We had the type of relationship where, even as a high school student, I could rib him and he’d tease right back.
He had been a World War II fighter pilot. Sometimes, when I hadn’t practiced as much as I should have, I would get him to tell me stories.
He told me he met his wife in Texas. It was when he was on leave. He and a few friends in uniform wanted to get dinner at a restaurant that was full. The restaurant staff wanted to accommodate the service members and sat them at a table with a group of single women. One of them became his wife. He loved her for decades.
When I started lessons with him, he towered over me. By the time I left for college, I easily cleared his stooping frame. Whenever I walked through the door, he’d start to raise the music stand. I still have that stand.
I always wanted to learn the next technique. When would I start third position? When would I learn vibrato? When would I move on to the next song? Mr. D had the same answer for all of these: “In due time.”
It wasn’t smooth sailing with the violin. My parents had to bribe me to practice, and there were several times I almost quit. I’m not sure I could have disappointed the old man though.
He believed in me. He said my pitch was perfect. He wanted nothing more than for me to play music and love it.
One of my deepest regrets is that I didn’t keep in better contact with him over the years. I visited him once after I left for college. All he wanted to hear about was how much I was playing. As college drew on and I didn’t join the orchestra, it seemed too hard to keep in touch. So I left him in my memories.
After college, I started playing in bands and decided to buy a viola. I called the shop where I got my violin to inquire about pricing. I told the shop owner I had been a student of Dom DiSaro.
“He was a great man,” the owner said.
“Was?” “He died about six months back.”
It was my lunch break at work. I sobbed until I had to go back. I should have known. He was in his mid-80s when I left for school and had a bad heart.
He devoted most of his life to music education. Mr. D taught me violin for eight years. I knew him better than my own grandfather. I loved him just as much.
Last year, I started teaching violin lessons. Part of me thinks that Mr. D would be proud. Another part knows he would have chided me for not learning some obscure advanced technique first.
The other day, my student asked when she would learn vibrato. I only had one response: “In due time.”
Julie Zack Yaste is originally from the California Bay Area but has moved around the country with her husband, a naval officer. She currently works at an engineering firm in Honolulu and teaches violin.
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