By Jane Kaufman
WWW.SHAKER.LIFE | WINTER 2019 71
He cut an album called “Live at the Tack Room.” On it the
tinkling of silverware on plates and the buzz of conversation
It wasn’t long before my mother decided to take
lessons from Ryan. His first assignment to my mother: Play
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from “Mary Poppins” in
all 11 keys.
With Ryan she played popular contemporary songs
“Tijuana Taxi,” “Never on Sunday,” and “Georgy Girl.” He
wrote arrangements for her in a neat, efficient hand, and the
titles in triangular letters at the tops of pages. He also taught
my mother enough music theory to arrange her own medleys.
She practiced in blocks of time, but also found snippets
of time to play, typically while waiting for my father to finish
dressing before going out on weekend dates.
At the age of 40, my mother began playing out —
at nursing homes, at the Hospice of Western Reserve,
the Gathering Place, Hope Lodge, Cleveland Clinic, and
At 86, my mother now lives in an apartment near the
Farnsleigh Rapid stop. She often plays before supper, at the
cocktail hour, just like she did when Jack Jones was her teacher.
In recent years, she’s been working on her bass lines with the
virtuosic ragtime and jazz player George Foley, whom she deeply
admires. She is still playing medleys at nursing homes, and she
still practices. On that beautiful old Chickering. SL
Jane Kaufman is a staff reporter for the Cleveland Jewish News.
My mother grew up with a piano in the house, a Chickering
with a mahogany finish. It was the gift of her father to her
mother on the birth of their first child, a son, in 1926.
My mother, whose childhood name was Joan Skall, began
piano lessons at the age of 6. Her teacher was Mrs. Schneider,
who lived on Chadbourne Road. There is a book of Christmas
carols in my mother’s collection marked in red pencil in a
hurried angular scrawl. It must be Mrs. Schneider’s writing.
My mother loved classical music as a child. In fact, she
wrote birthday cards to the great composers of the classical
canon, unable to fathom that the creators of such beauty could
By the time she started high school in the 1940s, her
older brother and sister began goading her to switch to pop.
Jack Jones, who had a penchant for scotch and water, was her
teacher. My mother, then 15, already knew how to mix drinks,
so she poured one for him at the start of each lesson.
She first wanted to learn Vincent Youman’s “Tea for Two,”
but Jones told her it was too difficult. Instead, her first piece
was Richard Rodgers’ “Blue Room.” “Tea for Two” came next.
The structure went like this: She played, and then he played.
When her mother came in from golf or bridge or volunteering,
she asked Jones if he wanted another drink, and he played until
her father got home and asked if he’d like a third.
After she married Jules Kaufman, had two children
and moved to Chadbourne Road, my mother continued to
Living around the corner from Shaker Square in the
1960s, my family went to Stouffer’s Tack Room on special
occasions. Eddy Ryan provided ambience at a black baby
grand six nights a week, backed by Bill Bandy on bass. Ryan
was a kind man without ego who worked people’s favorite
songs into his set list before being asked. His touch was light.
His flourishes added elegance without flash.