CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 22. . . . February 9, 2018
Mr. Mergler has a beautiful soul and a limitless passion for music. By chance, he encounters a spirited young girl and her father from China at a nearby park. They soon begin talking on the topic of music. Not being able to afford lessons for his daughter, the young girl’s father shares that she taught herself how to play piano and plays regularly at church. Though they were nowhere near a piano in that moment, Mr. Mergler spotted a special gift in her, and he was not wrong. Soon after, the young girl and Mr. Mergler began sharing their love of music together through piano lessons (free of charge). During her first lesson, the young girl spotted a bust of a seemingly angry man atop Mr. Mergler’s piano. Curious about him, she asked Mr. Mergler who he was. “Ludwig van Beethoven,” he replied. After 26 magical lessons together, Mr. Mergler’s star student received an envelope with her name on it. In it was a goodbye letter from Mr. Mergler who was no longer healthy enough to teach lessons anymore. The sweet, generous man, who gave small gifts to all of his students, passed along his bust of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven to his favourite, special student. From that time on, she kept it on top of her own piano. In her heart, she knew that both Beethoven and Mr. Mergler heard her each time she practiced.
The book is based on a true story, and Canadian musician Daniel Mergler touched the lives of many throughout his musical career. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 77 years. Teaching music lessons was much more than just a job for Mergler. His love for his students was as great as his love of music—he called them his musical family. Mergler continued to teach into his old age. Those lucky enough to have known him and have had him as their teacher speak of the special place he holds in their hearts. His legacy lives on. In addition to this story, there has been a documentary film titled Mr. Mergler’s Gift in his honour.
Author Gutnick manages to successfully portray the deep bond that Mergler built with all of students. This touching story displays Mergler’s kindness, generosity and sincerity. The full page, colour illustrations, created by Mathilde Cinq-Mars, are as soft and beautiful as Mergler’s soul.
Andrea Boyd is an early years educator in Winnipeg, MB.