Posted on March 11, 2010
Clayton Center for the Arts
Homecoming pilgrimage: Alexander to perform at Clayton Center gala
It is not unusual for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander to come home — to his home in the mountains, his hometown of Maryville, to friends and family here.However, on March 27, when Alexander comes to the Clayton Center for the Arts for its grand opening, he will be making a homecoming pilgrimage of multiple dimensions and a particular depth.He will come to play the Steinway nine-foot grand piano he has purchased for the Center in honor of his parents Andrew and Flo Rankin Alexander. His father was principal at the West Side Elementary School that was located where the Maryville Municipal Building stands today. His mother operated a nursery school behind the family home on Ruth Street.The Steinway is a particularly apt memorial to the parents who instilled in him the love of music that will be expressed in the opening of the Clayton Center, and the senator hopes that it will be his parents who own the moment of his performance, rather than his playing or celebrity.For it was they who enrolled him in a piano program called “experimental piano lessons” long before the Suzuki Method came to the United States. His instruction came from Lennis Tedford, a well-known and respected piano teacher. And it was his parents who purchased from Dr. Verton Queener, Maryville College professor, an upright piano for $25.Senator Alexander’s choice of music for his first performance on “The Alexander Steinway” may surprise some. It won’t be “The Tennessee Waltz” or “Rocky Top” or one of the many classical pieces in his repertoire. It will be “Ivory Palaces,” a hymn dating from 1915, written by Henry Barraclough.When Lamar Alexander sits at the piano dedicated to his parents, demonstrating his own musical accomplishment, on the campus where his introduction to classical piano performance occurred, and where so many of his family have studied; when he plays a beloved hymn written by the colleague of his famous musical relative, he will be home in so many ways.