Slice of life: Learning about music and life

I was 16 and living on my own in Johannesburg, attending high school at the National School of the Arts. I was practising myself to a standstill, trying to get into the school’s annual concerto festival with a Mozart piano concerto. I wasn’t sleeping — well, sleeping very little — I was just working, spending all my time at the piano, every moment I had.

The auditions were the following day. I went to Ros [Liebman] for my final piano lesson in preparation. She took one look at me and cancelled the piano lesson. She gave me a large vegetarian meal, with freshly made beetroot juice, and drove me home to rest. She said : ‘Any practice now is pointless, you have to rest’. I didn’t play well enough the next day to make it through for the festival, but her kindness stayed with me. Ros used to say she really didn’t feel like a piano teacher, she couldn’t be a piano teacher because, every week, there was a different challenge. And some weeks, the challenge wasn’t the piano. So she used to say some weeks she was a psychologist, some weeks a doctor, you know.

That’s the thing about Ros — some teachers say their lesson is an hour and they stick to that. But Ros’s “hour” was as long as it took; she would say: ‘I teach until the lesson is learnt.’ She taught very differently to everyone else and kind of created a community around her. That day that she gave me that meal, I thought that what I was trying to get into was Mozart, but the meal was what I needed, the love was what I needed and the rest was what I needed.

She taught me how music fits into the rhythm of life. ­

Daniel Hutchinson, composer and music teacher, as told to Franny Rabkin. Ros Liebman died in October 2018

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Franny Rabkin
Franny Rabkin
Franny is the legal reporter at the Mail & Guardian

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

WATCH: Could new abortion rules in the US affect the...

The US government has appointed the first African head of its Aids fund, Pepfar. John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist

Slow implementation spurs frustration over South Africa’s jobs crisis

So says Rudi Dicks, who is in charge of coordinating President Cyril Ramaphosa’s initiatives to drive structural reforms and employment

How an abandoned mine dump became a crime scene

Environmental watchdog says ‘direct link’ exists between government’s failure to enforce non-compliance against mining company and gang rape incident

Bomb scare at parliament

The bag suspected of containing a bomb belonged to a parliamentary staff member and was harmless

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…