By Andrew Wu '19
The studio seems lost in time, a constant in my constantly-changing world. The first time I entered was six years ago, and aside from the additions of a student-created banner detailing the history of music and a newspaper clipping about the 2012 election, everything is as it was during my first piano lesson with Irena.
The room fits two mid-sized grand pianos, three chairs flanking a table, and a bookshelf. These objects are surrounded by manifestations of memories. The faded black-and-white photos, the proud newspaper clippings, the crumbling Russian music scores—they merge into an old-timey atmosphere. Posters of her former students dangle on the bulletin boards—Leo Svirsky, Sam Post, and Ben Gunby’s faces beam at me while I play, as they did six years ago. A poster celebrating Irena’s fiftieth year of teaching hangs from the side of the shelf.
The newspaper clipping featuring a voting line from the 2012 election is not a celebration of President Obama’s victory. When I asked her, she said, “The picture of the voting lines has one of my students in it. I recognized her.” The picture of her with an ambassador is not a message about current foreign relations, but instead a celebration of her students’ recital at the German embassy. Even John Buser’s diagram of the history of music does not reference contemporary events.
The pianos are gorgeous instruments: the closer to the door is Irena’s piano, an old Boston baby grand, and the farther is the student piano, a somewhat erratic Steinway donated by one of her former students. In all my time here, I’ve never seen the lids on the pianos raised, as Irena sets music on them. Underneath the pianos are the same sets of footstools—for shorter students—that I used six years ago.
Irena’s bookshelf seems almost magical, a repository of classical scores stained by use and greyed by age. The books look identical to me—the colors have faded, the pages have decayed, and the titles are indecipherable Russian characters—yet the ones that Irena seeks fall easily into her hands.
Underneath the table is a candy jar that always seems full. The jar holds no brand-name chocolate, no modern sugar-infused creations. Inside are a collection of peanut candies and dark chocolate bars that could have come from any era. Sitting on the table is a broken clock; its hands have long stopped moving, and Irena has never bothered to replace it, relying on her golden wristwatch.
Whenever I walk inside the studio, I take a moment and observe these objects. They may just be bookshelves and candy jars and pianos and clocks and footstools—but to me, they are manifestations of certainty. The last six years of my life have been jarring and unpredictable, but Irena’s sanctuary cares not for the whims of the outside world. Irena’s studio is comforting and familiar, and the aura of timelessness that pervades the room makes me feel like the ten-year-old boy who walked into the studio six years ago.