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As soon as her mom came into the house and sat down to watch the last few minutes of the lesson, my six-year old student’s hands stopped playing and she blanched. “I can’t play if mommy’s here,” she whispered. Her mother didn’t realize the effect she had on her daughter and whenever she, or her husband, sat down to listen, and as it turned out, remark as well, her daughter reacted this way. They were always encouraging as their daughter played but apparently it didn’t work for the girl. In mid-piece she’d stop. “Oh, I see the problem” I told her, “but that’s okay. I know just what to do about that.”

I stood up and very offhandedly remarked to them both about my fancy invisible screen that I used sometimes if it was needed. It is a screen, I said, making it all up as I went, that allows others to hear her play, but not see her play, and it is designed such that anything people behind it say cannot be heard by us at the piano. I reached to the ceiling and spread my arms wide to mark the dimensions of this invisible screen. Slowly I ‘pulled’ it to the floor and ‘fastened’ it tightly. My little girlfriend at the keyboard seemed quite pleased with this development. Her mom took the hint and said not a word, averting her eyes as we happily carried on.

Since then my student has reminded me, as her mother arrives just before we are done, that it is time now to get out the invisible screen.

My pleasure, ma’am.