Piano teacher’s long career touched many budding musicians

INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER
Charlotte de Blois plays one of her favorite piano piece in her Niskayuna home. Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER Charlotte de Blois plays one of her favorite piano piece in her Niskayuna home. Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.

NISKAYUNA- Entering the home of Charlotte de Blois is a bit like stepping into another world.

One often filled with the sound of de Blois’ piano playing.

De Blois has been playing the piano for ‘too many years to count’, starting out in her hometown in Germany.

She studied music for eight years at the Nord-west-Deutsche-Musikakademie, receiving degrees in music performance and education. She taught for several years in Switzerland. Then she decided to return to college and received her Masters degree in music education from the Hochschule fuer Musik and a master of Geography from the University of Bonn.

De Blois made her way to the United States in 1959.

“I came here through the World University Service and they had me stay in Pittsburgh,” de Blois said. Although her father did not approve, de Blois knew she would never have another chance to come to America to teach.

The people she met here convinced her to in the country.

After meeting her husband Ralph, she moved to Niskayuna where Ralph worked at the GE Research Center.

Since then, she has been teaching students from all around Niskayuna and bringing outside talents in for performances called the Young Musicians Forum.

“We’ve had roughly 130 concerts at the Niskayuna library over the years,” de Blois said.

But some of her greatest success stories are told through some of the students she’s taught, many of whom still keep in touch with her.

Theresa Wong, a former student, is now a composer and a performer.

“I mostly perform as a cellist and a vocalist but my studies with her were very formative,” Wong said.

Le Blois worked with Wong for three years and for Wong, those three years were when she discovered not only how to play the piano, but about what she calls the ‘magic itself.’

After 30 years apart, Wong reconnected with Le Blois this summer.

The feeling of stepping into the studio again brought back the magic that I first experienced as a child – the studio with 3 pianos – one upright for the student, one upright for Charlotte from which she would demonstrate ideas, and a grand piano for concert preparations,” Wong said.

Now, Wong is focused on the cello and on vocals. But she still uses the piano to compose some of her pieces.

“You can play piano, but it doesn’t mean you’re making music . . . with Charlotte, this is very important,” Wong said.

One of de Blois teaching mottos, “talent is wasted without effort,” was repeated many times throughout various sessions with students.

In 2003, she published a book on a new method of learning scales.

“You cannot learn language unless you’re willing to learn the grammar,” de Blois said. In de Blois methodology, scales are the grammar of piano playing.

“Music theory, people say that it is dry, but it’s fascinating,” de Blois said and she uses it as the basis for teaching.

De Blois will be retiring after over forty years of teaching and moving to the Boston area to be closer to her children (Steve, Andrew and Irene).

“To leave it all is very difficult,” de Blois said. Yet, she will be taking at least one of her pianos with her and plans to play just as often from her new home.