Monday, February 27, 2012

Hank and the Piano

Once upon a time, when our older kids were much younger, Joe and I made the theoretical decision that it was necessary to push our kids to take piano lessons. It was something, I felt, that had benefited me quite a lot as a child.* When Madeleine came of age, we did force her to take lessons, despite her very vocal objections. It was for her own good, we reasoned.

A few years, and many wasted dollars, later, Joe and I finally capitulated and gave her the choice of whether she would like to stop or continue. Madeleine took about a half second to reconfirm the decision she had made many years prior: she would prefer not to continue. As an aside, after two (or was it three?) years of lessons, Madeleine still knows very little about the piano relative to what she knew before she started.

During this period, Hank came of age. He, unlike his sister, showed some interest in taking lessons. Unlike his sister, he is (most of the time) happy to sit and practice. He likes to play for fun (as he told me yesterday, "I like to play the piano, but only when someone isn't telling me what to play."). He, unlike his sister, cares about performing well at his annual music competition. He, unlike his sister, chooses, on his own, to continue with his lessons; and he is advancing in knowledge and skill at a far faster pace than his big sister did.

Most adults understand that where there are means and passion, knowledge is gathered, or a skill is mastered. In theory, I know this too. It's just that, sometimes, it's nice to be reminded. Yesterday, hearing Hank play in front of a judge and a room monitor, I was reminded of this, not because he played, but because of how he played. He played with poise and confidence. He played as one who took the experience seriously, and enjoyed the chance to be judged. And this morning, after weeks of preparation? He's back at the piano, plunking out tunes. For fun.

*I forgot to remind myself that, as a child, I as given the choice if I wanted to take lessons or not. Yes, my mom encouraged me to want to, and it helped that my second grade teacher, who I liked, was to be my piano teacher (the excitement of visiting your school teacher's house!), but ultimately the decision was mine. I am no proficient, by any means, but I did, and do, enjoy putzing around on the piano.


Cheryl said...

It is such a hard call, knowing whether to continue or not when things get hard (which they always do). It takes years to get beyond that point of no return (the point at which the student has learned enough that at least some reading/playing ability will be retained even if lessons stop). Stop before that point, and it seems like everything you've invested in time, money and tears is down the drain. But keep in mind that even if the music training is lost there are other benefits that occurred during that time as well as life lessons learned that will remain.

I think there are some children who should be allowed to stop lessons and others who should not be. Only the parents/teacher can make that determination. My beef is with parents that allow their children to make that choice completely independent of parental input and completely based on the child's whims and desire for "fun." (I am not seeing that at all in your situation!)

BTW, yay for Hank! Keep it up!

Cheryl said...

Another beef is parents who give up on lessons after paying for them for years but never, ever making the child practice with any sort of regularity.

Sorry, didn't mean to hijack your blog with my piano teacher peeves!

Cate said...

LOL. Hijack away, Cheryl. It's nice to hear things from a piano teacher's perspective.