Wednesday, January 25, 2012

TMI about piano lessons

some of my students had mini piano breakthroughs (HOORAY!!!!!) this week and it got me thinking... piano is really good for people.  now, i know i'm biased, but these are some of my hodge podge thoughts on the matter.

there is something to be said for an activity that takes more than 1 hour to master, or even more than 1 day.  i know other activities take lots of effort over a long period of time to master - all kinds of instruments, sports, academic pursuits, etc...  and i am a fan of ANY of those things.  for a kid to work at the same thing 20 minutes a day and progress, progress, progress... it's a good habit. it instills discipline and hard work.  example - i had a few kids who started in september between ages 4 and 6.  anyone in this age group still has a VERY hard time sitting there and getting their fingers on the keys.  we are talking like 3 minutes to put our thumb on C.  they're easily distracted, don't remember where their thumb is, which hand is right or left, how not to swing their legs. they fall off the bench, they ask silly questions, and they suddenly forget the order of the alphabet.  but by now (and even earlier than december), every single one of those kids can focus and sit through the whole lesson.  they can play their songs, find all the notes, read the music (for an entire 2 minute song) without stopping to ask questions.  it's pretty cool to see.

so, why piano over all those other activities?  well, there is something about an instrument lesson that makes parents more hesitant to let their kid quit at the first sign of lacking interest.  if you hate soccer, you hate soccer - you don't have to play next year.  if you hate piano, suck it up. [an aside- finish the season.  seriously, there can't be too many good reasons to let a kid quit mid-commitment.  ok maybe there are a few, but all-in-all, finish what you start.  that is something i learned from my wonderful mother.  we weren't allowed to quit.  so if we wanted to take ballet, we took ballet for the duration of the class even if we changed our mind after week 1.]  that was for free ;) i digress.  if you don't want to play piano, a lot of parents make their kids do it anyway.  it's different from other activities in that way, and i think it's good.  we don't like to put down our toys to do piano practice; but we, as adults, don't like to put down our toys to go to work either, and we have to.  another life lesson to instill at an early age.  sometimes, you do things you don't like in the moment for the long term pay off. 

no piano-playing adult ever looked back and said "i wish i never learned the piano. i hate this skill."
mostly you hear, "i always wish i would have stuck with it."

there are lots of proven connections between studying music and improvement in math and reading abilities. you probably already know that.

it's fun.  barring some horrible emotionally scarring experience with a crotchity old lady teacher, playing music is fun.  it's not for everybody.  but most little kids particularly have fun with it if you make it fun. 

it's mentally challenging!! processing all the fingers and notes and expressions at one time (and so much more).  it's rewarding when you can play a song well and it's rewarding when you can play automatically and it's challenging.  woohoo! i love a good challenge.

my personal experience?  sometimes i think people assume that because i teach piano, i have always been a perfect student...
i cried in level 3.  a lot.  the songs were too hard.  there is a transition from one-hand-at-a-time to both hands that is just hard. there's no way around it.  i cried through level 3 [oh, and crying is still my response to every emotion...]
i wanted to quit in junior high (the answer was no).
i wanted to quit in high school (the answer was - talk to 3 adults hand picked by my mother and if i still want to quit after talking to them and thinking about it for a month, i had to tell my piano teacher of 10 years myself.). i stuck with it. clearly.

i've been processing these thoughts all week. thanks for letting me spew them out on here.

musically yours :)

hahaha only dorky music teachers sign their notes (pun intended) "musically yours" !!!! hahahaha i crack myself up.

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