PORTLAND – Jacqueline Gourdin cannot fathom living a life without playing, or teaching, piano.

“I have done this my whole life. It is something I truly am the most comfortable with doing,” she said.

Playing piano has been a passion of hers since the age of 4. Gourdin, now 74, has written about her life as a pianist, along with other anecdotes throughout her years.

The idea to document her life came about nearly six years ago when she was chatting with her friend Robert Erickson.

“One night over dinner she said, ‘You know, somebody really ought to write a book (about my life),’ ” Erickson said, agreeing at that point to be that “somebody.”

“She and I started to collaborate. I’d invite her from Portland on weekends. She and I would sit in my office for hours on end,” he said.

“Gradually, it developed,” Gourdin said. “We kept going until we had a book.”

Throughout the process, Erickson said he asked her numerous questions about every aspect to “flesh it out.” The book includes details about being born in Florida, making her move north, attending the Boston Conservatory for music, and her longtime career as a piano teacher and professional accompanist.

“She’s been a very close friend. (My wife and I) have been a part of her life for over 25 years,” Erickson said, adding that he thought the book makes for an interesting read.

“Her life has been so diverse and so interesting,” he said.

During a small recital Sunday with her students, Gourdin premiered the book, signing copies for those interested. The recital itself included a performance by a few of her students who “really wanted to play,” she said.

“I try not to force children,” Gourdin said.

While she does not force them to perform, Gourdin does have high expectations for her students. William Sawyer, who is now a sophomore studying music at the University of Maine in Orono, would agree with her tendency toward strict teaching.

“She worked me hard,” said Sawyer, who started taking lessons with her in the fifth grade. Teaching nearly 30 students, ranging from 4 years old to 75, during the school year, she expects full commitment and regular practice.

“This is business,” she said. “I’m a committed individual. That’s what I expect.”

“She got me to definitely be better a lot quicker,” Sawyer said.

Throughout the years of taking lessons, Sawyer said they became “close friends.” Gourdin actually played a piece composed by Sawyer with bass trombone accompaniment during the recital.

“It was incredible,” he said, to hear music he wrote be played.

Teaching children is rewarding, Gourdin said.

“It’s just something you love to do. Each morning you have something to get up for, and at the end of the day you’re fulfilled,” she said.

She has been teaching students out of her Portland home, with lessons ranging from half an hour to a full hour depending on the student. Together, she said they work on basic skills and music theory and play the classics — Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and more.

“I love giving that enjoyment to others,” she said.


Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]