Texas woman teaches piano for 81 years

CNN
Monday, February 17, 2014 - 6:38pm

With ease and grace Ruth Pignotti plays through Bach's chromatic fantasy and fugue.

She’s played the piano for nearly nine decades, and she's not stopping any time soon.

"If you don't play, it's gone! It's use it or lose it, that thing," Ruth Pignotti told CNN.

This week she turns 93-years-old. She's been teaching lessons for more than 81 years.

"I'm not stopping. No, I'm not stopping," she said.

It’s all she's known since she was 12, teaching through The Depression and World War II.

"This is gonna feel, at the beginning, like a cowboy story. It's set in San Antonio, Texas, at the Staffle Feed and Grain Company," Ruth said.

That’s where she met her teacher, a Russian pianist.

"By the time I was about 12 years old I was probably playing at a collegiate level and so she said 'You can be my assistant teacher.' And here I was, I was 12 years old. That was 81 years ago," Ruth explained.

In college she majored in piano and bassoon, and then began the job hunt.

"I had my choice of any place, any place I tried I got," Ruth said.

She taught at the University of Arkansas, Baylor, and the University of Texas.

"That's where I met my husband who was a violinist," Ruth explained.

Pignotti uses music in every aspect of her life. She even started Austin Angel Fish, a synchronized swimming team.

"Synchronized swimming is a wonderful way of bringing your music to your physical sport. It's a fantastic thing to do," she explained.

Students of all ages visit the Pignotti music studio inside her northwest Austin home for weekly lessons, where they learn more than just how to play.

"We talk about the composers, and we talk about what was happening at the time,"

Even as she approaches another birthday, "It's just my life. It's what it is. I can't imagine not having it," Ruth explained.

‘Retirement’ isn't part of her vocabulary.

Ruth said, "If I stop playing the piano, what would I do? It's like being on a merry-go-round. I can't get off!"

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