60 Minutes with Ella

I took piano lessons for about five years when I was a kid, but I hated practicing.  HATED.  I hated it so much, that I taught myself how to play by ear so I could just pick up a song quickly instead of learning the music.

Fast-forward 18 years and what happened?  I went through a bit of a Quarter-Life Crisis last semester and decided to take up piano lessons to re-learn how to read music.  I’m actually paying to meet with a lovely Russian lady named Ella for 60 minutes every Friday so she can teach me what I despised as a child.

While piano lessons may sound intense or weird or time-consuming (all of which are true), my 60 minutes with Ella has become one of my favorite times of the week.  Especially this week–I was so stressed, so antsy, so crazy, so all over the place…and Ella made everything better.

Ella is a beautiful Russian woman who has been in America for about 12 years.  We share a love for New York City, David Yurman jewelery, and classical music.

She studied music in Russia, briefly stopped for a year to study medicine, but quickly returned to her love of singing and piano.  She holds master’s degrees in both voice and piano.  She’s got undeniable swagger.

Her Russian accent makes our conversations so much more interesting:


Ella: “Mehghan…why are you being so light with the keys?!? You must be firrrrm. Strronng Feengers. Think of the keys as like a man.”

Me: “…the keys as a man?”

Ella: “Yessss…The man does not like to be caressed softly. The man, he wants something firm! Confidence! Like theese.” *taps my arm like piano keys with ‘strrronng feengers’*

Me: “ahahah…Ella!!”

Ella: “Mehghan, I know dis.  I know dis things.  You have boyfriend?”

Me: “Oh goodness no, Ella.  I’m a mess.”

Ella: “…hrmph….you need a man.  We will fix dis.”

Me: “ahahah, Ella!”

Ella: “Dis Spring, you will learn Bach and find a man. I know dis.”


Ella: “Hokay, Mehghan. What do you have for me today?”

Me: “Well, I learned this piece…and this one. But I have questions about this one.” *flipping through pages*

Ella: “..hmm. OK. You play for me.”

Me: *start playing*

Ella: *loud gasp* “Mehghan!!!”

Me: *startled/looking around* “What?! What’s wrong? What happened!?”

Ella: *points at my boots* “Where did you git dis? I love your boots.  They are beautiful.”


Me: *finish playing a piece”

Ella: “Mehghan…you aren’t feeeling the muzik.  You must feeeel it.”

Me: “I don’t know how to feel it, Ella.”

Ella: “…it’s like…how you say….it’s like belly dancer.  They can be pretty–beautiful skin, great body–but when you’re eating at a Moroccan restaurant and they come dance for you and don’t feel the muzik, they look terrible.  Not exciting.  They don’t feel it.  And my husband, he doesn’t even want to watch it. You know?”

Me: “…right…”

Ella: “Feel it, Mehghan.  Feel it. Now play.  But feel it.”


She is by far one of the most interesting ladies I have ever met…I just adore her and my 60 minutes with her every week.

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