Sometimes God places people in our lives who change us forever. One such person in my life was my first piano teacher, Mrs. Jo Kooiker. When I was seven years old, my dream was to play the saxophone. At the insistence of my parents, however, I first took piano lessons to acquaint myself with the world of music. Mrs. Kooiker gladly shared her gift of music with a young first grader. Every Tuesday afterschool, I went to her house for lessons. She began to teach me the basics. Simple melody lines and notes eventually turned to four-part harmony and decorated arrangements under her tender care.
But what I learned on her small upright was ever so much more than technique and rhythm. Although Mrs. Kooiker was not a professional piano teacher, she taught me a genuine love for music. Other teachers stress practicing scales or learning technique. She never did that. Mrs. Kooiker encouraged me to enjoy music and to enjoy what I play. She instilled in me a passion for music. Her teaching was the foundation of everything that I have done musically. I am convinced that every song that I play, every concert that I attend, every CD that I buy, and every tune that I hum comes from that basic love for music that she taught me.
As the years flew by, Tuesday afternoons became one of my favorite times of the week. When I arrived at Mrs. Kooiker’s after a day at school, she always had a small snack waiting for us. While we ate our cakes and cookies, we would talk. She always had a funny story about her grandchildren or an anecdote about her trips into town. Sometimes our chats would last longer than the piano lesson! Being a former school teacher, she could answer any question I would ask. Whenever I had a project or report for school, she could always find an article or book about it. One room in her house had books on every subject imaginable.
I will always think of Mrs. Kooiker as an adopted grandmother. We went on numerous “field trips” together. She took me to museums all over West Michigan, she brought me to gardens and parades, we went exploring through downtown Holland, and so much more. In the summertime, she would take me to an organ concert almost every Wednesday and afterwards, we would go to a restaurant for lunch. We always had a wonderful time together.
We received a phone call early one morning this past June telling us that Mrs. Kooiker had unexpectedly passed away. As I played the piano at her funeral, I was reminded again what a special gift God had given me in her. By her Christian example, Mrs. Kooiker had taught me more than music. She was always a godly woman, who exhibited a passion for learning and life. Whenever I count my blessings, she is always on the top of my list.“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same.”
Mr. James Oord is a Sophomore at Reformed Heritage Christian School in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is the son of the Editor.