Elaine Shackley, 88, plays a grand piano in the living room of her Portland home. The long-time music teacher has filled a variety of roles since moving to Portland in January. (The Commercial Review/Jack Ronald)
Elaine Shackley, 88, plays a grand piano in the living room of her Portland home. The long-time music teacher has filled a variety of roles since moving to Portland in January. (The Commercial Review/Jack Ronald)
When it comes to music, Elaine Shakley has trouble saying no.
At 88, after a career in music education spanning 67 years, she’d be forgiven if she felt it was time to take a break.
But her love of teaching and her love of music won’t let her.
“I haven’t solicited, but when people came I couldn’t say no,” says Shakley, who moved to Jay County in January to be close to her family.
Since her arrival, she has taken on three piano students — two adults and a 4-year-old — and has taught lessons on the recorder at the Jay County Christian Academy.
She’s the mother of Portland-based international business consultant Bonnie Maitlen. She also has two other daughters, Pam and Sue, as well as six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“I mainly came because of Bonnie,” she says. “When you’re 88, you want to be close to home.”
Shakley moved here from Russell, Ohio, a suburban community near Cleveland. Her career as a music educator include teaching at a number of public schools in the greater Cleveland area, giving private lessons on piano, and serving on the faculty of Cleveland State University.
She received her bachelor’s degree in music from Ohio’s Heidelberg College and her master’s from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
She also pioneered music education on educational television with a program called “Sounds, Songs and Symbols,” which first aired on WVIZ-TV in 1966. In addition she served as organist for Federated Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for 28 years and for United Methodist Church in Russell for 10 years.
She founded Shakley Suzuki Piano Studio in her home in 1983. At one point, she had 60 piano pupils ranging in age from 2 1/2 to 70.
Even now, she shows no signs of slowing down.
Maitlen points out that her grandmother lived to 104. “Mom’s not really in the last phase,” she says. “There’s probably one more.”
She clearly loves teaching.
And she doesn’t believe 4 or even 3 is too early to start.
Shakley herself started playing piano at age 3.
“Some youngsters are more than ready at that time,” she says. “You don’t hold them back.”
As a teacher, she puts great emphasis on learning to read music, though she admits that with children that can be “like pulling teeth.”
“If they really want to learn, for goodness sakes, that’s the first prerequisite.”
“I do traditional plus Suzuki method,” says Shakley. “Memorization is very important.”
She also encourages students to develop skills with a second or third musical instrument.
“I had to learn to play every instrument in the orchestra for one of my courses (in college),” she says.
“That doesn’t mean you play well.” But it’s important to understand how each instrument works and how they work together.
Today, two grand pianos grace her living room and Shakley is always more than willing to sit down at one and fill the house with joy.
“Music,” she says, “is the most powerful therapy there is.”