Sally O'Reilly

Today is the birthday of my hero, mentor, and inspiration, Ms. O'Reilly. 

(she always says that's what her favorite students call her, and I would bet my bottom dollar that we all want to be in that exclusive group).

Everyone has that one teacher in life they revere more than anyone else, and for me, she is that person. She taught me so much, and not just about how to play the violin.

When practicing, faced with awkward professional situations, or working with my students I always think: "WWSD" as in, "What Would Sally Do?" 

I learned the benefits of combining hard work and humor and aspired (and still aspire) to be as equally well versed in art, history, literature, and politics as I am in music, just like Ms. O'Reilly.

When I veered off the beaten path of classical music and dipped a toe in playing with rock bands and touring all over Europe, she simply invited me over to her home to discuss places to go, things to do, and people to call. She publicly celebrated my success. I thought that playing in a band was like a dirty secret in a music school, but she told me that if nobody else was doing it, I should be proud of my success....but she still made me practice my scales and etudes even when galavanting around like a rock star. 

When things went south with a different violin teacher during my doctoral degree (that's a long story for a different time), she was the person I turned to for advice, and she was my wholehearted advocate. Having her support gave me the courage to make some difficult decisions because she made clear what was right, and what was not acceptable. I was so comforted by her absolute commitment to me and the success of her students. I knew I could depend on her support even after years of not seeing her, or having a lesson with her.

Being one of her students is like being in an elite club. It is an honor to be counted as one of her students. She has taught some of the fiercest most badass players and teachers in this country.

For years I worked hard to do precisely what she asked, and now, I work hard to emulate her teaching. I am still learning from her all these years later. Genius!

I count her as much as a friend as I do a teacher.

Happy Birthday Ms. O'Reilly! Thank you for everything.

(I cannot believe I have absolutely no pictures of us together. How embarrassing!)