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The Art of Music

Recently my son performed for an audience, and a conversation with his piano instructor and I had a conversation about teaching piano. We had a philosophical agreement about how to teach in terms of what music to use. Sadly, my sons previous instructors lacked this fundamental knowledge and lost our sons.

We in many respects forced our sons to take piano lessons. A cheap, old pian was purchased for its last purpose in life and that was to work with my sons in terms of music. The one key near middle C never worked correctly. Even after a tuning the piano was rather off-key and didn’t sound the best, but that didn’t matter as the goal was to work with my sons.

Early on our sons struggled with practicing, and our cajoling and threatening work not very effective. My oldest even developed a method of fooling us by playing something and stating it was what he was supposed to play. For his mother and me, we were not familiar with what the early instructors were giving him, and he was playing what he wanted and rather badly at it. Instructor number two was better than the first instructor but was old-fashioned. If she could have whacked my sons knuckles with a stick, she would have.

Instructor number two was better than the first instructor but was old-fashioned. If she could have whacked my sons knuckles with a stick, she would have. She had taught her six or seven children the piano and also was teaching other students when my sons arrived as new students. The oldest had experience while my youngest was new. Her harsh method of teaching did little to inspire my sons as they tolerated her and did little practicing. She scolded my wife for their not practicing, but since we were unfamiliar with the songs she selected, it was difficult for us to help. We did provide suggestions of songs she could teach them.

This is where she mainly failed. She taught my sons religious songs. Now I do like some religious songs like on Eagle’s Wings but for the most part, the religious songs were dull and not exciting. My sons liked the Caisson SongImperial Death March, the Phantom of the Opera theme song. Of the religious songs my sons liked, they were too complicated, so out of their reach. The instructor was unable to move beyond dull religious songs and accept other music. Occasionally she would cave in and allow my oldest to play The Caisson Song or my youngest to play a patriotic song. The concerts she gave at her tiny church was finally given new life with these songs and not the constant versions of religious songs. I am not criticizing religious songs but consider how dull it is to listen to three versions of a song from simplest to simple to moderately advanced. Ten students with two to three songs and nearly half are duplicated. The instructor was killing any love of music my sons could have, and my sons were driving her up a wall as they resisted her strong arm tactics. She finally “retired” from teaching, and we sought out another instructor.

This instructor is old fashioned as well and a hard critic, but she understood something. As an instructor, you can’t be stuck on what you like. You need to go beyond and allow the student to guide the instructor. She and I agreed that a person will play if it is music they enjoy; therefore you can’t force them to play music they don’t like.  My sons told her what music they like, and she was willing to work with them. Finally! The youngest had Scott Joplin even after she stated his hands were too small. By darn, he proved everyone he could play it. The Phantom of the Opera, the theme song to The Lord of the RingsThe EntertainerThe Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, and plenty of other songs. She introduced some that they liked and they introduced others to her. Their love of music increased as did their practice. My youngest son’s passion and feeling of music came out in such a wonderful way. This led us to investing in a new piano and without encouragement, our son wanted us to find a way to continue his lessons as he began his dual enrollment at the local college for his junior year.

Now my son has done a short performance in front of an audience and his proud instructor. With our cajoling and the instructor’s willingness to allow my son to dictate his interests, our sons have developed musical skills with my youngest displaying a gift of feeling the music. He is talented, but I’m not delusional to believe he can be some great concert pianist, nor is that my goal. My wife’s and my goal was to introduce our sons to music, enjoy music, and enjoy playing music for themselves. We have achieved this. As my sons get older, I want them to continue playing and enjoying music.

When we introduce our children to something new, we need to be prepared to be introduced to their interpretations and viewpoints as well in order for it to thrive. As much as I beg my youngest to play Maple Leaf Rag and the Entertainer, I also understand he’s moved beyond this and is journeying on his path and not mine. I am allowed to maintain the hope that he’ll spend an afternoon entertaining me with Joplin.

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Categories: Education, Music, Uncategorized Tags: ,