Eva Redick, 88-year-old doyenne of Beverly Hills piano teachers, has sold her baby grand and is about to retire to Palm Springs after 50 years as piano teacher to the children and grandchildren of the stars. But in Santa Monica, Alice Kitchen is still tinkling the ivories at age 92 and has no plans to retire.
The two are among the oldest of their kind, veteran piano teachers who have put up with thousands of hours of botched scales and misfingered etudes for the joy of an occasional gleam of understanding in a child's eye. Also, it's a living.
Although they were not closely acquainted, the two women have much in common. Born in small towns in the Midwest, they came to Southern California when they were young, earned music degrees, married, gave birth to one daughter each, divorced early but remarried happily, made long careers in music, served as presidents of the West Los Angeles branch of the Music Teachers' Assn.--"our beloved branch," Kitchen calls it.
The owner for 38 years of a piano studio on Little Santa Monica Boulevard, Redick invented a unique study aid--weighted gloves that are supposed to build the strength of piano-playing fingers.
The gloves, manufactured to order in Gloversville, N.Y., never caught on too widely, but Redick plans to market them and try to publish a colorful children's book called Piano Playtime while living at her new home--a desert condo she will be sharing with a nephew, his wife and his mother-in-law.
The book gives animal's names to the various keys--the Camel C, the Cow C, the Lion C, for example, and follows their adventures with the Clef family and Farmer Fred Fudd, who lives on the fourth line of the music stave.
"I've had a full, fascinating, wonderful life," Redick said. "No one can compete with me."
Born in Grand Island, Neb., she grew up in Seattle, where her mother was a piano teacher and an inspiration even after her death in 1948, Redick said.
"Everyone says I'm touched, but she had been gone three months when the phone rang at midnight. It was her," Redick recalls. "She said, 'Eva, put weights on the fingers.' I screamed to my husband, 'Mommy's on the phone, Fred!' He thought I was cracked."
Her lessons began at age 4, and young Eva and her mother were soon playing duets.
"She had me out on roller skates to help the dumb kids (practice) for 10 cents a lesson," Redick said. "At the end of the week I had 50 cents. I was ready to go into the loan business."
They later moved to Los Angeles, where she married, but moved back home after the divorce and started teaching at her mother's Johnson Redick Piano Studio on Wilshire Boulevard.
"I wasn't on roller skates then, honey," she said with a laugh. "I was a divorced woman."
A chance meeting with the conductor of the orchestra at the old Carthay Theater led to a full schedule of music and voice lessons for a celebrity clientele.
Later she set up her own studio in Beverly Hills, staging yearly musicales for her students at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and later at the Hotel Bel-Air. She closed the studio in 1985 but continued to teach at home until Sept. 15.
An outgoing personality who likes to touch people, she has cute stories by the dozen. One little girl heard her counting time for her brother and said, "Teacher, can't you count past four? I can count to 10 and Billy can count to 20!"
A 12-year-old who made some mistakes in a Hayden piece asked if the composer was dead.
"Yes, he's been dead many years," she replied. "Well then, we don't have to worry about it, do we?" the pupil asked brightly.
Redick said she once told her young daughter: "I pick the notes up with a screwdriver and make a hole in their heads and pour the notes in."
But it wasn't that easy in real life. "I'm not a performer, but I'm a disciplinarian to the nth degree."
Her pupils included the children or grandchildren of show business celebrities including Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Jay Lerner, Wayne Rogers and others, she said.
Although Redick is hanging up her patented piano gloves, Kitchen, her senior by four years, is determined to go on teaching until the end.
Her driver's license has been extended for another year, but her Plymouth Duster Special with its Ollie North bumper sticker has been parked in the driveway of her small house for the last few weeks.
She keeps a cane handy and a friend does most of her shopping. But Kitchen has no intention of giving up her work or her home on a quiet street in Santa Monica, even if real estate agents do offer more than half a million dollars for the house she bought 40 years ago for $8,600.
When does she plan to retire? "When I die," she said. "So when they come calling to buy my house, I say no. I believe you should keep going until you go."
Born in Verndale, Minn., a hamlet near the Canadian border, Kitchen started piano classes at age 7, studying with the only teacher in town. "Between you and me, a very poor teacher," she recalled.