My children are learning the piano. We began about eight months ago with a wonderful Suzuki teacher who, as it turns out, is very strict (at times). And she is quite particular about technique (as piano teachers tend to be). And it’s all been going along swimmingly. Until…
… recently, when we came a cropper. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
For the moment I want to bask in the realisation of a lifelong dream of mine – to play the piano. With two hands.
When I was a kid I could read music – just the notes, the treble and bass clef signs, the various rest symbols and the time signatures, not all the other symbols that go with music, such as the slurs, and things like piano (soft), or forte (loud), allegro, or the myriad other symbols that have special and specific meanings for the way music is played. But I desperately, desperately wanted to learn to play.
However, the dominant thinking back in those days was that if you hadn’t started learning by the time you were six or seven years old, you’d left it too late and you’d never learn it.
Why do we listen to things like “the accepted wisdom”? With the benefit of hindsight, I know that my desire was so great that I *would* have done the work and practiced.
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s all falling into place now because I have time at home, with an instrument in a convenient location. I moved around so much in my 20s that I wouldn’t have been able to afford to lug a piano, even a digital piano, from apartment to apartment.
But I’m doing it now. I practice almost every day. Oh, I’ll never be a concert pianist, and my technique is lacking, but then again, I never wanted to be. I just wanted to play the piano, with two hands. I don’t want to necessarily play long classical pieces, although to have one or two under my belt may be nice. I just want to play Hill Street Blues and The Way It Is. And of course, Piano Man. So through my kids, a dream is becoming reality.
Back to the kids, and our Suzuki teacher, a wonderful woman who *can* be strict, although she can also be a big softy too.
We had a lesson where she obviously decided that their technique really needed a touch-up and she went in hard. Hard is a relative term in many ways, so I’ll qualify by saying compared with her previous manner, it was quite a tough lesson.
I found it very upsetting as she demanded the boys repeat positions over and over and over. I could see them both struggling to give her what she wanted. It was the hardest thing in the world for me to stay silent!
But I did, and they came away unscathed, not at all traumatised by what I saw as unreasonable demands.
That incident was about six weeks ago now, and in the fullness of time I can see it was out of character for her. I think, too, it was probably beneficial for the boys to be pushed. Their wrist positions are a weakness in their playing.
And the lesson for me here is, she is the expert and knows what she is doing. At some point I need to trust her that she knows how to teach children. She’s been doing it a long time! And also, it was good for the boys’ resilience. They struggled to meet her exacting requirements and there’s never anything wrong, in my book, with discipline and aiming for the best.
So it seems that piano lessons offer more than learning how to play the piano! She hasn’t at all killed their love for it. In fact, their love for it grows as they become better and more accomplished. It was a valuable lesson for me to keep my fat trap shut!