Les Miserables

Shared by Zoe Burger on June 15, 2020
When I was younger, Les Miserables was my favorite musical. My dad and I shared a love for musical theater. He took me to see it at the Hollywood bowl when I was about 10 years old. I was looking forward to it for weeks. Unfortunately I got sick and missed half of the show. Awhile later, I was getting ready to go to school, when my dad came downstairs and told me to put on long pants and pack arts and crafts because I was “going to grandma’s house after school.” All of a sudden, my grandma showed up to the house. I was surprised, because this never happened. We all got in the car, which was also weird, because my dad always drove himself to work. We were on our way and we passed my school. I knew something was up. My grandma then said she was going to drop my dad off at work first, which also made no sense since my dad’s office was entirely out of the way. All of sudden, we were at the airport. My grandma said we were picking up my grandpa, but then we started to get out of the car. There were multiple suitcases stacked in the trunk that I didn’t notice. Next thing I knew we were on a flight to Washington D.C. We had an amazing week in D.C filled with the classic sightseeing. Towards the end of our trip, my dad surprised me with tickets to Les Miserables at the Woolftrap theater.

Our Never-Ending Story - piano, panache, pomp and circumstance...

Shared by Juliet Aucreman on June 13, 2020

Early in July, 2007, a man called me, seeking piano lessons for both himself and his daughter. A few days later, I met our formidable Michael – self-assured, quietly humorous, a commander at the keyboard. He was a self-made pianist – he hadn’t taken the conservatory route as I had, but a powerhouse he was, adding either fire or innuendo to every musical phrase, as the music called him. Here was personality, here was flair, here was the ruddy panache a piano can help unfold, with the hand of an artist.

But it was Michael’s mind, floating through those airwaves, that caught my attention. His crafty use of words, his slight smile and deep giggle at all the double meanings of thought – those qualities ignited my mind to a quick alertness.

As I do not teach concertizing players, and since Michael wanted a teacher for both himself and Zoe, I suggested Michael try another teacher. I gave him some references. I was disappointed. “How do I get this guy into my life?” I thought to myself. We talked, we laughed. I remember telling him I hoped I would see him again. In that evening interlude, I still remember the lamp casting a warm glow about him as he beamed with the music.

A few weeks later, Michael called back. He wanted to sign Zoe up for lessons with me. And so, on the lovely morning on July 27, 2007, Zoe and I started working together, and thus began one of the great family friendships of my life. Piano lessons with Zoe – a gift from Mother Earth to me.

Years came and went. Zoe taught me to see the world in a blossoming light. Her humor, her empathy, her sparkle, helped me grow as a person. And all the while, Michael was there, facilitating, watching, jiggling his knee as he often does when he’s amused or deep in thought. Michael was passionate about promoting education and personal development.

Michael, Travis, and Zoe would back me up at all my whimsical piano recitals. Michael would write out thoughtful comment sheets. Michael, Travis, and Zoe would turn up at hospitals and help me load in my gear, and Michael and Zoe would perform alongside my other students. Within their trio, I always felt embraced and cherished. Lessons became paired with lunches in the summertime or dinners during the schoolyear. Travis would often join us, and I’d serve them the most awful boxed wine this planet has ‘ere produced. Their politeness amidst my insult to vino was a testament to our enduring friendship.

Over the years, I was gifted with the opportunity to also teach Alex and Vicky piano. Alex taught me humor. Vicky colored my world.

It is with great pain that I bid our dear friend Michael goodbye. But, even if he tries, Michael will live on in my head, where I have him tightly bundled up, should he dare escape. We are still laughing together about our little favorite shared humor sources – The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, innumerable Monty Python skits, and puns we never had to explain to each other.

I thank the universe for throwing Michael into my path, and for the gifts he continues to give through my dear Travis, Zoe, Alex, and Vicky, and their wonderful extended family and friends.

In Michael’s memory, we must push forward with fresh ideas and a renewed commitment to excellence, gusto and silliness. With the last falling leaf of our great red oak, just watch – just wait. Soon, a new sapling of thought grows within.  

And so, as I had hoped long ago, we shall see Michael again.

I love you forever and ever, dad.

Shared by Zoe Burger on June 13, 2020
I’ve sat down to write something for my dad, Michael David Burger, about 10 times. His writing was so careful, delicate, and thoughtful, and I want my words to do as must justice as they possibly can. My dad was truly a one-of-a-kind person, and I mean that with my entire heart. I have never met someone who thought the way he did, cared the way he did, and listened the way he did. One of my dad’s good friends from summer camp, Heath, explained it in the best way possible: “all heart. All brains.” I’ve been thinking about those simple two sentences, and how well they represented who he was. He loved his family and friends with his entire heart, and he cared for what he did with his entire brain. Even though he was my dad, I often felt like I could talk to him like he was a good friend. He would listen to what I said, and offer thoughtful responses in return. This example of love and thought have impacted my life in a way a thousand words can’t describe. And when forever comes, his love will still last. I love you forever and ever, dad.

With all the love in the world,


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