My earliest recollection of playing a piano was sitting in the lap of Betty Charlton, an old family friend, as she would take my finger and play kiddy tunes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Row, Row Your Boat." I loved to listen to her play the piano, and was always ready for her to let me play. From there, I began taking piano lessons when I was in the second grade and continued piano lessons through the ninth grade.
I think my first formal piano teacher was an elderly lady name Mrs Darden. I remember Momma taking me to her house each week. Mrs Darden had an old organ and she would let me play around on it if I proved to her that I had really practiced the previous week's lesson material. Over the years I had a variety of music teachers, but perhaps the one that influenced me the most (besides Betty) was a lady who had lived in Los Angeles, CA and had returned to Jasper (TX) to help take care of her mother. She was a studio musician by trade, and had me playing college level music when I was in Junior High. Unfortunately, she moved back to CA a year or so later.
My last music teacher was a real disappointment for me as she was determined that I had to go back and start over on a new study method that she thought was awesome. My last piano recital piece was Bill & Gloria Gaither's "The King is Coming." I am sure she was momentarily pleased when I began playing the piece flawlessly, but her smile quickly turned into dismay when I was about halfway through the piece. My mind went blank, and I could not remember another note. Instead of losing it, I simply paused and then let it rip convention style by ear. I received a standing ovation, and she expressed her displeasure by telling my folks that they need not bring me back as she couldn't teach me anymore.
Along the way "dear ole Betty" had taught me to play the piano by ear, and I would much rather sight read the music and improvise by ear. I guess the next time I see her, I should tell Betty that I'm blaming it all on her! :-)