Dottie Hallauer didn’t have much to bring with her Thursday to Wildwood Metropark, just a piece of note paper with song titles handwritten on it.
Ms. Hallauer, an 86-year old Toledo resident, played the piano during the Holidays in the Manor event and other locations, something she’s done for the past 40 years. She didn’t bring a book of music with her, which would have been wasted — Ms. Hallauer doesn’t know how to read music. But that hasn’t stopped her from playing piano for 81 years.
“I just play my own arrangements,” she said. “... I could play almost anything I heard. It’s like someone who can remember anything that they’ve seen. Well, mine is in my ears.”
Ms. Hallauer has been performing in Toledo for decades. She worked the early fare at local restaurants from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.
She began playing when she was 5-years old, accompanying her mother, who sang and played the guitar and ukulele. And while her parents hired a teacher at one time, her father put an end to that.
“He said, ‘I can only hear her play ‘The Dog Has Fleas’ so many times. If she does it any more, we’ll push the love out of her,’” Ms. Hallauer said.
The list Ms. Hallauer brought with her Thursday to the Manor House included traditional religious songs such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and other tunes like “Oh By Gosh, By Golly.” Her shift on the piano lasted two hours in the afternoon, and she was prepared to play for the entire length of time. She also had “Bye Bye Blackbird,” which was her father’s favorite song.
Most of her list came from listening to tapes of Nat King Cole. She said because she doesn’t know how to read music, she needs the words to know she’s not skipping notes. However, she doesn’t have the lyrics or song running through her head as she performs.
“I make a mistake and it sounds good and I work it in,” Ms. Hallauer said. “I just have a good time.”
Ms. Hallauer, who graduated from Waite High School, tries to play the piano daily — saying it’s like meditating and brings back memories of people and places. During one of her performances, she had a local music store owner convince her to try playing the violin, but she sticks with the piano now.
“I had to learn to read music to play my violin, which I did not do well,” Ms. Hallauer said. “What I did was learn to read music for the violin, but I never learned to sight read. ... Had I just stayed with trying to learn it by ear, I may have been able to play the violin. My violin is a beautiful piece of furniture sitting on the couch.”
While Ms. Hallauer won’t receive tips or free meals like she did while performing at restaurants in town, Thursday’s performance gave her a different sense of accomplishment.
“I feel blessed that I can share what I do and try not to know I’m not doing it, it’s coming from a talent that was God-given,” Ms. Hallauer said.
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