Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Has Happened To All The Piano Players?

When I was growing up, it seemed that every kid I knew took piano lessons. Some dropped out pretty fast, but most of us stuck with it for years, working our way from method books to classical pieces and if we were fortunate, some popular pieces as 'rewards' for sticking out the daily finger building exercises and classical music assignments.
My children had a wonderful piano teacher who trained at Peabody School Of Music and who taught at least some of them to become accomplished pianists who play regularly in their adult years. But as a child, my piano teacher lived just around the corner in our neighborhood, a stay at home Mom making a few extra dollars for her family by teaching the neighbor kids how to tickle the ivories. That was the norm where I grew up and there seemed to be a piano teacher in every neighborhood. None of us learned to play very well in the end perhaps, but in addition to learning to play the piano itself, a piano student learns important things like:
  • Music Appreciation. Getting an exposure to the great Classical Composers like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Debussy. Who didn't learn to play at least a simplified version of Moonlight Sonata?

  • The importance of daily practice. Filling in that little practice notebook to take to your piano teacher at next week's lesson was tantamount to avoiding a scolding for not taking practicing seriously enough.

  • Memorization. Years ago kids did a lot of memorizing and oral recitation in school but that seems to be a thing of the past. But a piano student works to memorize their musical selection for the spring recital. Memorizing is an important mental task in my opinion.

  • The importance of Perfection. In a world where parents are encouraged to tell kids they are great at everything they do to build their self-confidence, working on a piece of music to perfect it can be a rare skill. Our children's piano teacher used to put a little check mark on a piece if they had not practiced it well enough, indicating it needed repeating for another week. Sometimes, they might have 4 or 5 check marks on it before finally passing it off to her satisfaction. And finally they would receive a star for a job well done in perfecting it. Of course it isn't necessary to be perfect at everything in life, but I believe there is value in working to perfect some things.
    So let me ask, where are all the piano players these days? I do know some children who still take piano lessons but is it becoming a thing of the past? I hope not!
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