AMSTERDAM — Virginia Mee hadn’t seen her young piano pupils in more than three months, and she wanted a way to bring some music back into their lives and brighten up the start of summer vacation.
“I haven’t been able to see my piano students since March,” Mee said. “I miss them, and I miss that they’re not enjoying any music — at least, any classical music or the kind they might like to play.”
Mee, a longtime piano teacher and former middle school English teacher in Amsterdam, welcomed about a dozen of her students and their families into her Evelyn Avenue backyard Thursday afternoon for a recital and singalong she dubbed “Music for a Summer Afternoon,” hoping to bring her music family back together after spending many months apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her students — who range in age from 6 to 13 — sat with their family members in socially-distanced clusters located near the tomato plants in Mee’s backyard. Mee played the piano inside her living room, with the music piped out to the backyard over a sound system, while Valerie Beekman led the students in singing.
“We’re kind of all connected,” Mee said. “It’s one big, happy musical family.”
Mee beamed as she welcomed her musical family back to her home, effusively talking up each of her students as they entered the backyard and excitedly praising their musical prowess.
“He puts me to the test,” Mee said of the musically ambitious Noah Ilagan. “He asks for all kinds of different music, I find it for him and we have a good time.”
Music has been a part of Mee’s life “forever,” and she’s spent years teaching piano — both in Amsterdam and during the time she lived in Las Vegas, helping to take care of her grandchildren.
“I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t teaching the piano,” Mee said.
At Thursday’s program, Each of Mee’s students received a goodie bag that included a folder of the day’s sheet music to sing along to. She also included sheets of blank paper, pencils and crayons to encourage her students to either draw or write short stories inspired by a couple of the instrumental pieces she played throughout the program.
“I was an English teacher, so that’s why I wanted them to get some writing in there, and I do appreciate art,” Mee said.
The bags also included a couple of home-baked cookies and brownies, and glowsticks that the students could use to shine their own special lights for the afternoon’s final song, “This Little Light of Mine.”
The musical selections for the singalong were chock full of upbeat numbers like “Do Re Mi” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” folk standards like “This Land is Your Land” and patriotic songs like “America the Beautiful” to provide a kickoff to Independence Day weekend. Mee also played a few classical pieces, including Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” and “Moonlight Sonata,” as examples of music she could teach her students once lessons begin again.
The singalong wrapped up with “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “This Little Light of Mine,” two songs Mee felt were appropriate given the current climate.
“I’m a believer in great peace,” she said, “and I want them to have that feeling and that aura about this, too.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.