“Music is an international language which can provide excellent therapy for the body, soothe the troubled mind and uplift ones every soul” – Eileen Yaxley
If you venture down the hallways at Dr. Hemstock & Hearthstone Place, you are likely to pause outside of one room in particular, as the sweet sound of music can be heard. This piano player has played all her life and continues to use music as a way to keep her mind occupied, deal with her troubles, and simply enjoy her time. This has especially been positive during COVID-19 as our residents have been sheltering in place. During our visit, Eileen told me that the piano has always been a way for her to express herself, and during this time it has been no different.
Eileen started playing piano at the age of 7. Her first teacher taught her for 6 years. Eileen says that this teacher was a perfectionist and later instructors told her that she could not have asked for a better foundational teacher as her skills were refined at an early age. Her second teacher was a gentleman from a town nearby. Eileen’s parents were committed to her continuing with her lessons, so Eileen had to take a train from their small village out of town to Lloydminster every week. Depending on what time the teacher’s bus got in, Eileen either had her lesson late at night or early the next morning to make sure she would not miss the train ride home. Eileen said that he was a wonderful teacher. He had a way of making you feel like you could do anything. “Reach for the stars”, he would often tell her. Eileen enjoyed her piano playing and found joy in the notes that she played. Often, her parents would get her to perform for visitors at the house. They would pay Eileen a little money for her performance. Eileen’s passion and talent shone through in her playing. After completing her grade 10 exam, she was awarded a scholarship of $20 for having the highest mark in all of Saskatchewan. This was a lot of money at the time.
In 1951, Eileen became a registered piano teacher for Saskatchewan. After graduation from high school, Eileen obtained her schoolteacher certificate in Saskatoon. Her days were filled with teaching school students during the day and evenings turned to music lessons.
Sharing her love of music was and is important to Eileen. She was apart of the team that helped start the Lloydminster Music Festival. She was also apart of the Registered Piano Teacher Association of Lloydminster. They were the only branch in Canada that had duel membership from both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
In 1963 Eileen branched off from strictly piano and took a course on choral in Banff. She received a scholarship from a professor at the University of Alberta to attend this summer course. From there, Eileen was in charge of several choirs including junior, intermediate and senior levels. She also played for her church for 12 years.
After retiring from school teaching, Eileen’s music lessons increased. She has been honored by several organizations around Lloydminster for her contribution to music in the area. This includes being recognized at the Lloydminster Music Festival on their 25th anniversary year. In 2000 she became an honorary music festival patron.
Eileen talked about how her talents are a God-given gift. She feels that she has been blessed with a gift and it is up to her to be able to share that gift with others. She said that her parents sacrificed a lot to ensure that she was able to continue her piano lessons and find all the success in life that she has. Her whole life piano has been a way to make other people happy or help them to appreciate music.