on the store and/or house was a large view of each
On the back of
these great photos forwarded by Isabella Eredita-Johnson it
"Thomas B. Fanton home and store Redding, Ct.
William M. Fanton was born in Feb. 12, 1867"
Fanton and D.S. Johnson can be found on the
Beers 1867 map where Cross Highway intersects with Sanfordtown
road. Johnson & Nickerson is what the store's sign says.
The store also served as Redding's Post Office.
is the first photo I have seen of the store/post office. Thank
you very much Isabella!!
B. Fanton (Conn. State Senator) had a son named William Fanton.
William Fanton was a Methodist Minister. His daughter was
Glady Fanton, born Oct. 13, 1902.
on an Old Time Teacher (Glady Fanton)
by Isabella Eredita-Johnson
our initial experiences with something can become the defining
ones. I believe this is true of my years with my first piano
teacher, Miss Gladys Fanton. I began lessons with Miss Fanton
in 1970, when I was 10 years old. She was 68 and semi-retired,
living and teaching in a turn-of-the- century Victorian style
home along tree-lined Main Street in Northport, Long Island.
My mother accompanied me for the first lesson, leading me
through the whitewashed wooden gate, across the pine-planked
porch, and to the door of the brown shake house. Miss Fanton
met us there and welcomed us in. She appeared quite prim and
proper, tall, with angular facial features and steel-gray
hair fastened into a bun —like a one-room schoolhouse teacher.
Her clothing was neat and conservative. Her home, too, was
conservative-everywhere dark woodwork and dark wood furniture
against a background of off-white walls. A never used red
brick fireplace filled one corner of the living room, which
was also the piano room. This was a no nonsense woman. I was
a little apprehensive, but Miss Fanton was sweet and reassuring.
We got straight to the lesson.
my mother sat quietly across the room she gave me a run-down
on reading music, and then we played a basic five-finger exercise
with hands together. Soon she was insisting, “Isabella, proper
hand position. Curve your fingers, don’t collapse them. Wrists
at even height.” I had come to the lesson wanting to play
a melody as soon as possible, but Miss Fanton kept me on the
basics. She played for me a beautiful short piece of music
and I asked her its name. She told me it was simply “an inversion
of arpeggios in a harmonic progression.” I didn’t really know
what she meant, but at the end of the first lesson I told
her, “Miss Fanton, when I grow up I want to become a concert
pianist.” She replied encouragingly, “If one truly loved what
they were doing and were willing to work hard enough at it,
then any possibility may exist.”
long our lessons settled into a comfortable routine. I would
ring the doorbell, let myself in, and go directly to the piano
to brush up on my scales and run through my pieces. After
about 20 minutes, she would come downstairs and begin the
lesson. For the next hour and a half she would teach theory
and technique—instructing, listening, commenting. Miss Fanton
was a diligent teacher, always quick to detect and correct
any bad habits I might begin to develop, but she was no drill
instructor—her style was always kind and patient. She used
method books, but they were basic books that used traditional
techniques. And unlike many of today’s teachers, myself included,
she always gave hour long lessons. She believed that a lesson
needed to be at least that long, and that in a half hour one
could not possibly get everything in.
Miss Fanton’s lesson’s lasted more than an hour, sometimes
over two hours. The extra time was usually taken up with stories
from her musical and life experiences. These stories were
often what I enjoyed most about our time together. She loved
to describe the way Northport was in years gone by—taking
the trolley down to the harbor at the end of Main Street on
a late afternoon when the baymen were unloading their bushels
of clams and lobsters onto the dock, or visiting the dairy
farm on Oak Street, which was only a few blocks away. She
talked, also, of summers when Rachmaninoff lived in the town
next to ours. He would drive his boat to Northport and visit
at the home of the harbormaster, Dexter Seymour, often performing
for a select group of locals in a salon-like setting. Miss
Fanton was a friend of Mr. Seymour, but she never had an opportunity
to visit with the great pianist during these occasions. She
often lamented that she would have loved to have been invited.
She liked to talk of her experiences at piano concerts which
she attended, often remembering details of performances of
artists such as Harold Bauer and Ignatz Friedman that dated
back to her college years in the1920’s.
Fanton wasn’t a virtuoso and did not herself perform in public,
but she was a capable pianist who had a flair for teaching.
Her repertoire included Bach Preludes and Fugues, Beethoven
Sonatas, Debussy Preludes, and many of the technical studies
of Hanon, Schmitt, Heller, and Czerny. She did impress upon
me, however, the importance of performing for others as a
part of my training. Often during our lessons friends would
come for brief visits, and she would have me perform a piece
that she felt I had mastered. I see now how valuable those
little one or two person audiences were for my confidence.
Miss Fanton also regularly attended a local concert series.
She sometimes bought an extra ticket for me, and we would
go together. My mother would drop me off at her home. I would
wait while she finished her grooming preparations at the mirror
by the door. The last step was always the donning of her white
pillbox hat. That’s when I knew she was ready. We drove to
the concert in her mint 1966 Rambler with a manual transmission,
and on the way she would talk about who was to play and what
they would be playing. What I remember most of our first trip,
however, was the flawless way in which she clutched and shifted
gears. On the way home from each concert, Miss Fanton would
often rave about the ability of the performer and the seeming
ease with which he or she played. Her enthusiastic show of
admiration reconfirmed for me my desire to become a concert
pianist, and, though I perform in public only occasionally
today, that desire kept me working hard. Much of the success
I have today as a private teacher and performer is, I believe,
a result of these early experiences with a teacher who readily
displayed her joy in the music and the instrument.
Fanton encouraged all of her students to perform, no matter
what their level of playing. She held annual student recitals.
These were great events. I looked forward to them with a feeling
of thrill and apprehension. She carefully prepared her students
for their performances, helping us choose pieces, helping
us learn to announce clearly the titles of the pieces. On
recital day she would simply call our names from her hand
written performance list, and we would have to get up, bow,
announce our pieces, and (gulp) play them. Often, Miss Fanton
would invite guest poets, singers, or pianists to perform
in addition to her students. Today I keep the recital tradition
going with my students, but, in keeping with the modern need
for souvenirs, and because of the miracle of desktop publishing,
I print a detailed recital program for all the parents and
brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts who attend. I also
keep Miss Fanton’s tradition of serving ice cream sodas at
the conclusion of the performances—it’s a very popular part
of the evening.
said earlier that Miss Fanton was not a public performer,
but this is not entirely true. She did play the organ each
week in public for Sunday services at the Presbyterian church
in town. She did this for over 50 years. It was another one
of her joys. She was a very religious woman, and she spent
much of her time talking about her devout beliefs. I believe
that she tried successfully to live up to them. Her father
had been a Methodist minister, and she was no rebel. She kept
the old time values in many ways, not the least of which was
the fact that she never married—in keeping with the old fashioned
idea, perhaps, that a woman cannot both marry and have a career.
Her life’s loves were her God and her music.
the passing of her parents, Miss Fanton lived with her brother,
Lloyd, until his death in the 1960’s. Lloyd was an unusual
character and very different from her. Miss Fanton often entertained
visitors even into her nineties, and after arthritis had made
dull tools of her fingers, her piano would frequently be covered
with cards and gifts from friends who had come by. But Lloyd
was a bit of an eccentric and not nearly as social as his
sister. Often he could be seen walking about Northport in
a wide brimmed hat with his pet raccoon on his shoulder. He
had taken a degree in business at college and spent most of
his life working for an insurance company. His talent was
for numbers and details. Miss Fanton loved to tell the story
of how, earlier in their lives, his talent for details had
served as an instrument of good fortune for her. A piano company
had published a contest in a local newspaper. A picture of
an upright piano had been cut into pieces, and each week a
segment of the picture was printed in the paper. The contestant’s
job was to reassemble the squares, paste them together, and
submit the correct picture before the deadline. The prize
was the upright shown in the picture. Lloyd took on the job
and did it so well that when his father held the picture-puzzle
up to a light he could not see even a trace of the seams between
the squares. Lloyd won the piano for their home, and it became
Miss Fanton’s first. She never did get rid of it, even after
she bought the grand piano with which she taught lessons.
perhaps in a few months, I will receive that grand piano as
a gift. It does need quite a bit of reconditioning, perhaps
several thousand dollars worth of work, but still, it is a
beautiful instrument that will fit nicely next to the piano
already in my studio. A second instrument will certainly enhance
my teaching, and I look forward to its arrival, but the day
of its delivery will also be a sad one for me because that
gift is an inheritance from the estate of Miss Gladys Fanton,
who died this past summer.
passing was not tragic—she was 98 years old and had lived
what I believe was a joyful and fulfilled life. Still, I can’t
help but feel a great sense of loss—of a good friend, of a
mentor, of an era that forged my conceptions of great music,
great performance, and great teaching.
of us remember that one teacher who most inspired us to work
hard and to set our goals high. We can remember the one who
was the most kind, the most patient, or the ones who most
piqued our interest in the world of music with rich stories
of their personal experiences. For me, Miss Fanton was the
one who did all of these things. I’d like to think that I
carry on some of the traditions of the old time teaching that
Miss Fanton represented. I think I do a pretty good job of
impressing upon my students the value of listening to others
play, of playing for others, and of exposing them to performance
opportunities. I do keep after my students to maintain proper
hand position, proper posture, curved fingers, but I know
that I don’t have the deep well of patience and the even temperament
that she had. I do stress the importance of technical training,
but how much can you do in half an hour, anyway?
the last several months I’ve been thinking about what I believe
we’re all losing as the “Miss Fantons” of the world pass on
and the old methods of teaching seem to pass on along with
them. I’m sometimes tempted to think that, too often, the
study of the piano is considered by parents to be just another
activity for their child, just another stop between soccer
games and the movies. I’m reminded of the parent who bitterly
objected to my comment to a student, one day, that if I had
to grade her progress from the prior week, it would be a C.
I can’t blame her for feeling that way. It seems that the
idea of rating the child’s performance clashed with that parent’s
sense of modern education. We had opposite views—she thought
it was about self esteem, I thought it was about accomplishment.
I, for one, think that if a teacher knows a student hasn’t
practiced, she ought to be allowed to call that student to
task. Similarly, we ought to be able to expect and encourage
excellent effort. As a piano teacher, I want to rightly say
of my profession that we are not just activities coordinators,
rather, that we are teaching a skill that is difficult to
master, an art that takes real dedication to create. Miss
Fanton seemed to live in and foster a world where these possibilities
did exist. I hope that when I'm older and semi-retired I will
have developed the qualities that made her a great teacher.
And I'd like to offer this article as a memorial to my first
teacher, to all our first teachers.
fate of Gladys' piano has a happy one! At the time of inheriting
the 1929 Steinway mahogany piano model "M" (2002), the piano
was in great neglect and sore condition. Miss. Fanton had
left me $25,000---an amount that paid for the complete restoration
of the instrument! The piano went into the Steinway factory
(in Astoria, Queens), and stayed there for nine months. Not
only was it exquisitely restored ---but it was also autographed
by "Henry Steinway." He is the great grandson of Henry Steinway---the
founder of "Steinway and Sons."
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