I played piano for a little while for Baby Banana this morning. Of course it was quickly interrupted by her hitting the keys and we sort of played piano together for a few minutes. I used to play more for Lemon Cake and just haven’t had the time or energy to play for them. Piano has been a blessing and a curse in my life. I still remember standing in the hallway when my mother asked my five year old self, “Do you want to take lessons on computer or on piano?” I sealed my fate by choosing piano.
I loved it for the first year or two. I had a young and fun piano teacher who came to our home once a week to give me piano lessons. She played beautifully and I always told my mom I wanted to play just like her. For one reason or another, I got a new piano teacher after a few years. Supposedly, and unfortunately, I was “good” at playing piano which I think prompted my mother to find a more “professional” teacher. The teacher was not too bad, she was kind and warm but certainly not as fun. She had higher and stricter standards. I started having to take these British Piano Exams. There are eight levels with 8th being the highest. If you want to learn more, here is the link: http://www.trinitycollege.co.uk/site/?id=1046
I took the 3rd level, 5th level and 8th level. In Hong Kong, if you tell anyone you passed the 8th level of piano exam, it is quite an impressive accomplishment. I did extremely well in my 3rd level exam with almost perfect score in everything. I was probably about eight or nine years old then. It was prove that I had talent, I had a sense of music and I had very good “ears” for listening to music. By the time I took the 5th level, I hated piano so much that I made my mom promise once I passed the exam, I would not be forced to play piano ever again. Not surprisingly, my mom broke that promise with the excuse that it would be such a waste of my “talent”. I barely passed my 8th grade exam but I did pass it. To prepare for any level of the exam, a student would practice the same three pieces of classical music for almost a year every day, practice scales, appagios in different styles like staccato …etc. and learn music theory. I have forgotten most of the terms now unfortunately. I hated playing piano with a passion and had to play for an hour every day. It was so boring. The repetitiveness and the exams took all the joy out of it. It was my prison and my nightmare. I would do ANYTHING to get out of playing piano. I would turn the clock faster, I would have screaming fits, I would pretend to be sick, I would tell my mom I have practiced piano already while she was out shopping…etc. I started taking music theory lessons when I was about ten or twelve. While I had good musical sense and good ears for listening to music, I had ZERO understanding of music theory. I just didn’t get it and it was the most boring and difficult subject. I find myself often day dreaming or barely following along in class.
At sixteen, I came to the states for boarding school. I cried very hard the first day and night missing my family, but then I never looked back. To break free of the oppression was a lovely freedom. I did continue with piano some but not nearly as rigorously as I was forced to do so back home. Many of my skills have regressed unfortunately. I think I am probably at a level 3 skill set. I feel incredibly fortunate that I can play piano and from time to time enjoy playing piano. However, the cost was so huge. It contributed to so much misery in my childhood and almost ruined my relationship with my mother.
I am not writing this blog to vent about my piano playing experience. I want my children to learn musical instruments but I know my childhood experience in piano playing would have great impact on how I figure this out with my children. What will I say if Lemon Cake tells me he doesn’t want to practice? That he hates it? I don’t want it to be a power struggle but I also want to teach him that being good at something requires practice and hard work. Daddykush would probably be on the more lenient side- what is the point of forcing? Would I be overly permissive because I don’t want them to suffer like I did or struggle way too much with the balance between fun and hard work at attaining a musical skill? Would I have screaming matches everyday with both kids over practicing an instrument? Would I pay way too much to make sure I find the best teacher possible for them? I really have no idea right now. I am glad they are still small and I don’t have to deal with this yet. It will certainly be a journey to figure this out together as a family.