CITY OF MANASSAS, Va. (WDVM) — Piano teacher Virginia Speiden Carper never had children of her own, but her students soon became her legacy. By the time she died in 2005 at the age of 96, she’d taught exactly 1,000 students.
Becky Verner met Mrs. Carper in 1957 and spent the next 12 years learning how to play the piano. “Mrs. Carper also became a friend in addition to being my teacher and by the time I was a senior that was one of the hardest things to leave was all the music things in Manassas even though I was headed to college,” she said.
Mrs. Carper was an organist at Manassas Baptist Church for 50 years without pay. Verner, her student and friend, is a piano teacher, too, and the director of music at that very church. The home in which Mrs. Carper taught her students still stands on Battle Street. “There were times that she would tap on your shoulder to make you feel the beat and times when you could tell she was disappointed if you hadn’t practiced that much that week,” Verner remembered.
Carper taught on the same piano until she retired, but it’s not in her home anymore. Thanks to her estate, her piano is in Osbourn High School’s auditorium, Carper’s alma mater, waiting to be played this coming school year. Verner doesn’t tap her students on the shoulder, but she has adopted many of her beloved teacher’s teaching methods, like counting with them and taking the time to mark things in their sheet music.
“I have compared notes with several of her former students who went on to do many of the same things that she did and I think again that example was not so much taught but caught and they wanted to follow in the footsteps that they had seen her do and do well.”
Carper was also known for her piano duets and quartets that are still played across the country. She founded a concert series called the Manassas Concert Association that lasted for 38 years. “At that time Manassas was small and these were people that were New York artists that would come through on tour,” Verner said. “And what a gift that was to the community. They didn’t have to go into D.C., which took a lot longer then, and so, really, she was a musician not just for the church but a musician for the community.”
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