Patience Scales – A Giving and Gracious Lady

Patience Scales – A Giving and Gracious Lady

by Alan Thomas, Life Member, Musicians Union Local Six


Patience Scales is probably the most renowned music teacher who ever taught in San Francisco. When she and I engaged in conversation after the Local Six Life Member Luncheon at Nick’s on August 8, 2013, I discerned that she had quite a story to tell.  On a later date, Patience loaned me a large three-ring binder with much of her life chronicled in photos, flyers, newspaper articles and tributes to her long and successful career.

Patience Scales was born to Earl Lee Barnes and Annie Mae Barnes in Arkansas.  Her father was an entrepreneur and civic leader.  Patience graduated from Dunbar High School in Little Rock and later from Arkansas A. M. and N. College (now University of Arkansas) in Pine Bluff. She studied business administration and elementary education.  She settled in San Francisco as a young bride.  Ms. Lillian Hodgehead, co-founder of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, was an early mentor to Patience.


When I asked if “Patience Scales” was her actual name, she responded that it is.  She was married to D. W. Scales and took his last name.  She was mentioned in Herb Caen’s column on numerous occasions as her name resonated with him. I guess old Herb thought that Patience [with] Scales was indeed a fitting name for one who reached fame as a piano and music teacher.

Ms. Scales brought pageantry to piano lessons which were displayed in her annual production for over a decade at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.  During her teaching career, she taught in excess of 2,000 students, usually 70 or more students at any given time.  As founder of the “Parade of Youth” Arts Foundation in 1959, Ms. Scales championed the development of musical and performing arts skills of youth with lower income backgrounds.  She was philanthropic to the extent that she gave lessons on a gratis basis to children who could not otherwise afford music lessons. Patience taught children how to perfect their musical talents through discipline and musical study with equal emphasis on helping them develop poise, self-confidence and stage presence with a touch of elegance.

In addition to all of the aforementioned, Patience also was employed by Local Six as an examiner for those seeking admission to the Union.  She has held Life Membership status for some time.


Patience Scales was honored by Who’s Who of California, Distinguished Woman in 1969 by the San Francisco Examiner, and was awarded the 1990 Individual United Sweepstakes Award of the Music Teachers Association of California.  She also received a scholarship to study under Lillian Hodgehead.

Patience has had a rewarding and full life and has enabled many children to receive music lessons that otherwise could not have had this privilege.  In the brief conversation that we had on first meeting, she exhibited a phenomenal recall of dates, people and significant events. She loves life and people and all of the honors and tributes that she has earned are richly deserved.   Patience has reached many people at the fundamental level of music instruction.  Those of us in the Union have all reached professional status to one extent or another.  Think back – many years ago just about all of us took instruction from a private teacher or in the schools, and often the memories of our early lessons slip away.  I hope that this coverage of Patience Scales’ career helps jog  our memories back to this time in our lives that proved to be valuable and significant.

Patience Scales states that her greatest achievement is the rearing of her three sons as a single parent. All are successful men:  Ricky Ricardo, Glenn Earl and Danny Wayne Scales.