Keys is a book that I am writing about my life and the insights I have gained as a student, performer and teacher of the piano. The word keys has many meanings and I thought it would be an intriguing title. I fancy myself to be a minimalist and one word suits me just fine! Born in 1961, I feel a strong need to put into writing the concepts that I teach from day to day, to leave a legacy and teach students of the future through my book. This blog is a start and I hope to then turn it into a book.
I am a Myers-Briggs ENFJ or teacher by nature, have always revered knowledge and the process of sharing that knowledge. Even in 6th grade I wrote in our yearbook that “Knowledge is Power!”
In this book I will address some of the most frequent questions that I come across as a teacher and use autobiographical information to help tell this story.
One of those questions is this, “Should I keep my child in lessons even though they don’t want to practice?”
That seems like a question that has an easy answer, an easy solution and yet it doesn’t. My father started teaching me accordion when I was only 4 and I added piano at about 9 years of age. My three siblings and myself were made to take piano lessons until the age of around 13. Were there times that I didn’t want to practice? Sure. Were there times that I cried? I think so. Am I mad at my parents for making me take lessons? The answer to that question is a big NO.
What my parents did is train me in the discipline of music which included practicing for 30 minutes day minimum. My grandmother, nicknamed “Sarge”, a tough lady named Mary, babysat us most days while our parents ran the music store and each one of us sat at that piano for at least 30 minutes daily with the kitchen timer set and we knew not to stop until that timer was dinging.
We also participated in our store recitals annually and competed in the Canadian Kiwanis Music Festivals annually. Dad had three accordion bands comprised of students from his store. We were in those also where we learned about teamwork and preparation, timing and performance skills.
You are giving your child a gift, a gift that will last, a gift that will entertain, soothe, heal and increase brain power. A person does not develop their frontal lobe, the part of your brain that can make great decisions, until the age of 25. Does a child of 5 or 10 even know what they want in life yet? Of course not.
And why music? Why indeed! I had an adult student who came to me recently and exclaimed in a very excited voice “I WANT TO LEARN PIANO!” His passion was palpable, we proceeded the learning process and he shared with me how music is a universal language like math, that it can foster peace amongst people who normally would not get along. Musicians who don’t even know how to speak to one another can play a quartet together, all reading the language of the written music. Music takes a neutral stance when it comes to politics, religion and money. You can mold it into what you want or need to express.
A child who has no music in their life is a very sad notion to me.
Many adult learners come to me and express that their parents made them take lessons when they were young and they REGRETTED that they quit!” I help them start over, and yes, we have to start over and there are many more distractions in an adult life that often seem to discourage them. Here is a fact: it IS easier for a young child to learn to play the piano physically and it IS easier for an adult the grasp the theory of playing the piano. So, yes, the younger, the better.
That being said…I recall a student named Mike at S.U.N.Y. at Fredonia, New York, where I did my undergraduate studies in Piano Performance and also received a Performer’s Certificate. Mike came in as a Freshman playing at a Sonatina level, I actually was surprised he was accepted into the program because I had already surpassed that level by leaps and bounds, and he became one of the best, most accomplished and expressive pianists that attended while I was there, in my opinion, completely nailing the Chopin Ballade in f minor!
I will take a break here and return soon…please leave any comments or questions that you might have and I will try to answer them.