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Perfect Pitch

This is a delightful experience I had many years ago in about 1956 or 1957, about two years before my High School graduation (1959). I was taking piano lessons from Professor George Fitzroy, a student of Rachmaninoff, Emeritus piano faculty at BYU.

After one of my lessons, he said that he wanted me to know that his perfect pitch was better than mine. I told him up front that I believed him and he didn’t have to prove anything. He said that he did. So he showed me three silver dollars, with different dates on them, one was an 1847 silver dollar. He said he was going to put them in a hat, shake them and while shaking them, he would lift one and listen to the difference in the sound.   He then shook them just to let me hear the sound they made. They sounded like shaking the small metal slugs found at constructions sights—I couldn’t imagine anyone could really adequately determine pitch because they sounded like noise only.

So he put them in a hat that he held in his left hand above his head and shook them so they would change positions as well as make noise. He told me he would do this until he found the 1847 silver dollar, then pull out the 1847 for me to see. While shaking them, he would lift one out of the hat with his right hand, never looking at it, but listening to the change of tone each time he lifted one of them out of the hat. He did this several times and then reached in and pulled out the 1847 Silver dollar. I couldn’t believe it because I couldn’t really hear a difference in the sound as he lifted each and listened to the remaining sound as such. He said, you don’t think I can do that a second time so I will do it again to show you that I can. He went through the same process and again, pulled out the 1847 silver dollar. I couldn’t believe he could do that, but he did.

He then said something like, “You have better perfect pitch than I do. Think about it , David. This is February, and I have had this 1847 silver dollar sitting on the window sill getting nice and cold, and that’s how I found it.  He was a demanding teacher but filled with love, respect and care for his students. I really enjoyed studying with him. Even though he and his wife were not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, they attended my missionary farewell and were also present at my home coming.