I have met many teachers since I was a little child.

There are some who just taught me about subjects.

But there is one who taught me much more.

He was my electronic organ teacher during my extracurricular time on weekends when I was from 9 to 12 years old back in my home country of China.

His name is Haitian Cai.

When I first met him, he was already in his 50s.

I was very amazed to know that he would be my electronic organ teacher.

His hands were gigantic for me and on the keyboard, too.

How could he remember all those staves?

The first song I learned from him was the Song of Joy.

He taught me to practice with the right hand first then remember the chords on the left hand.

It was very exciting for me to use both hands to play a song, even it was the simplest one among all songs I would play.

Time and time again, I fell in love with playing songs since I learned more and more.

I enjoyed having classes with Mr. Cai, too.

Each time I knew it was time for the class I would beg my mom to take me to the class at least 20 minutes earlier.

During weekdays, I spent at least 1 hour every day to practice.

My parents even joked that I would be a genius to put the same amount of efforts into my regular classes at school.

Mr. Cai was very different from other teachers.

Most music teachers in China are gentle and young women.

But Mr. Cai was sedate, sincere and patient.

He had steps to teach us little children and told us about interesting stories about the people that he met in other musical schools.

There was a concert held by the institution and I got a chance to see my mates to perform on stage.

The first time I saw the beautiful song played by a girl and it just stimulated me to practice more and learn that song.

One day I would be able to shine on the stage.

I was 10 and I loved learning and playing so much that I didn’t stop during breaks.

I enjoyed interacting with Mr. Cai and listened to his feedback about my playing.

When he played I couldn’t stop looking at his hands.

He told us it was very important to know the principles first then to play.

There is one story that I remember the most.

He said us girls who played well would marry elegant boys because we would be matched.

At that time, all girls laughed and were shy but we all knew it was truth.

Mr. Cai once talked with my mom and got to know that I was so enchanted to playing the organ.

He expressed his compliments to me in front of all my mates.

I was shy and knew that I couldn’t be complacent.

I just needed to keep going and purse my shining dream.

As time went by, my skills grew better.

Mr. Cai invited me to join his “talented class “ in which are his most outstanding students.

I was so happy to be able to learn from other mates.

I kept learning more and grew faster than before.

Mr. Cai encouraged me.

For example, if I could finish a 4-page song in a week, he would say I can start to learn the next one.

However, it was not always good to grow too fast.

If he found some defects in my playing he would let me practice for a specific phase for one hour then play for him.

He also said playing songs is like eating the fruits that we bought before.

If we play old songs, we enjoyed the sweetness of fruits.

If we just forgot and let go of old songs, those fruits decayed over time.

Mr. Cai was not a strict teacher.

He would call us to go back to the room to practice when the break time was over.

But he never forced us to go.

He knew that everyone has his or her own pace to learn things.

There were other students who were taken by their parents to learn but not for their own interest.

Mr. Cai knew this deeply.

He encouraged every student in different ways.

To me, he had higher standards and was never mean to express his recognition towards me.

I liked the way the Mr. Cai taught me.

Not like other young teachers who just talked gently with children and lose temper easily, Mr. Cai was more sincere and calm.

I felt very comfortable to talk with him and learn from him.

He would find some beautiful songs to enable me to learn more than what I needed to pass the music level test.

Mr. Cai was versatile and he taught traditional Chinese painting, Erhu and flute, too.

By the time when I was preparing for the level 10 test (which is the highest level), he was ready to teach painting.

I decided to end my learning if I passed the test because I knew I would had enough knowledge and reached my goal.

So I didn’t accept the invitation to join his painting class a year before I took the test.

It turned out that after several months, another young teacher took over Mr. Cai’s classes.

It was said that Mr. Cai asked for a long leave.

I was only half of a year before the test.

I was sad but I didn’t know when he would be back.

I felt lost after he was not there.

I had a new teacher but she was young and didn’t give much feedback as Mr. Cai did.

I missed him but I had to keep going to pass the test.

Finally, I passed the test, which made me the only student who first passed level 10 among all his students.

I felt proud of myself.

It was a little sentimental that my mentor Mr. Cai was not there.

Even before I left, he never came back.

I don’t know what happen to him.

Maybe he was sick or he had something important to deal with.

I imagined that I wrote a letter to him to express my gratitude and appreciation towards him.

I thought about the words I wanted to say to him.

However, I never got the chance.

This experience opens my window towards the beauty of music.

My voice is deep and I was not considered as a good singer at school.

But learning the organ developed my talent in music and I started singing and playing.

Since I was 9, music has been my best friend.

It changed the way I look at the world.

It enriches me with the opportunities to find more beauty in life.

Those four years of learning music and playing was the most precious time in my life.

I didn’t get much happiness from study at school.

I paid all my attention and efforts into one thing I enjoyed and loved.

I got such a great teacher to guide me and motivate me.

Mr. Cai kept encouraging me to learn, practice and grow.

Now whenever I meet challenges, my memory will bring me back to the girl who was so hard-working and persistent.

It is always lucky to do what I like to and grow.

I hope Mr. Cai is still well and I will always make wishes for him in my heart.

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Cover Photo Credit: Kris McGuire/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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A transfer student from China who just arrived the States for half of year.
Majoring in hospitality management
Working as a peer mentor at the career office in hospitality school Actively involved with international students and activities to help them adapt to the new environment.

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