95-year-old piano teacher striking a chord with kids

8:47 PM, Jul 27, 2011   |    comments
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  • Olive Haffner

By Mike Bush

Moscow Mills, MO (KSDK) - When it comes to music, Moscow Mills, Missouri is more Porter Wagoner than Richard Wagner; unless you happen to be in Olive Haffner's neighborhood.

"I love the classics," says Haffner.

Several days a week, her home becomes a concerto of piano lessons and life lessons.

"If you practice you're going to learn. If you don't practice, you're not going to learn," she says.

And if experience really is the best teacher, then Ms.Haffner may be the best piano teacher in the world.

"She's amazing," says 15-year-old student Stephanie Dwiggins.

This year she turned 95-years-old, which means she's been teaching for 76 years.

"Oh, I love it. If I couldn't teach, I wouldn't want to live," says Haffner.

Growing up, English was her second language. Music was her first.

"I can't remember not having music in the family," she says.

Haffer began giving lessons shortly after graduating high school and she's been doing it so long now that her first students sent their children, who sent their own children, and on it continued.

"It was about 35 or 36 years ago. I was in middle school," says former student Jill Niehoff, who sent her daughter. "She's just a wonderful teacher with so much talent."

Olive says no two students are alike, so no two lessons are alike. But the goal is the same.

"It's not just about the right note, it's about you have to feel your music," says Dwiggins.

"I just like my students. I just love 'em. They're just like my own kids," Haffner says.

Every June, going back to the 1940s she gets to show them off at the annual recital. One by one, they take center stage and as far as Olive's concerned they might as well be playing Carnegie Hall.

"When they get up and do a good job, I just feel so good," she says.

No matter how long you play, the piano is something you never stop learning which is why Olive Haffner will never stop teaching.

"Just the person she is...is so inspiring," Dwiggins says.

Striking a chord with students for more than seven decades by showing with a little music in your life, you're never too old to feel young.


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