Arlington Heights Piano Teacher Inspired Hundreds of Young Musicians


Joan Drolet must have been standing next to the podium, instead of behind it, when the village of Arlington Heights presented her with its “Young at Heart” award at the Hearts of Gold dinner in 2018. Standing under 5 feet tall, she couldn’t ‘I can’t see over the platform to thank her.

Although his stature was small, his heritage was great.

Drolet, then 91, had taught piano at home for 60 years and had performed daily masses at Our Lady of the Wayside Church in Arlington Heights since the day it opened in 1957.

Visitors and medical staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital near Lake Barrington, and more recently at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, enjoyed listening to her duets with her daughters in their halls. She and her daughter Dorothy Dirks of St. Charles performed at Northwest Community on August 9th.

Drolet died on Sunday. She was 94 years old.

The parishioners of Our Lady of the Wayside cannot remember a time when Drolet did not accompany mass. Drolet also led the early church choirs, trained future organists, and helped families with wedding and funeral music.

“She was a mainstay here,” said Dan McMahon, director of the parish music ministry. “She has worked for all pastors since its founder and has performed for weddings and funerals for generations.”

Drolet also replaced churches in the area when they needed chaperones, including St. Colette Church in Rolling Meadows, St. Raymond de Penafort Church in Mount Prospect, and Rolling Community Church. Meadows.

Through it all, Drolet shared his love of music with his piano students. She and her husband, Dick, set up a studio in their basement when the family moved from Rolling Meadows to Arlington Heights.

When her children came home from school, they knew how to keep quiet while their mother gave lessons.

“Even with the door closed, she sometimes had to go upstairs and tell us to shut up,” said Dirks, her eldest daughter. She estimates that her mother taught as many as 40 students per week at her peak, or over 550 over the years.

Most of Drolet’s students were children, but in recent years she has attracted some of her students’ parents to take classes.

“She was a very traditional teacher who wanted to give the students the basics, including learning chords, playing scales and how to count,” Dirks said. “She really wanted to give the kids a foundation and an appreciation for music.”

Drolet broadened her reach when she helped establish the Northwest Suburban Music Teachers Association. Its mission remains the same: to advance the appreciation of music and music education, as well as to provide teacher support and performance opportunities.

One of the performance occasions the group created was the Festival of Pianos, which featured six grand pianos in the center of suburban malls, where students joined their teachers to perform in duets. The festival took place at the Randhurst Shopping Center in Mount Prospect and Northbrook Court.

Drolet is also survived by her children Richard (Anne) Drolet, Michele (Frank) Bedo, Renee (Michael) Mullaney, Patricia (Kevin) Bowens, Dennis (Susan) Drolet and Mary (Darryl) Zettle, as well as 20 grandchildren. and 29 great grandchildren.

Visitations will be held Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lauterburg & Oehler Funeral Home, 2000 E. Northwest Highway, Arlington Heights. Prayers will be said at the funeral home starting at 10:15 a.m. Saturday before a funeral mass at 11:00 a.m. at Our Lady of the Wayside Church, 440 S. Mitchell Ave., Arlington Heights.

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