How does it feel to take piano lessons as a small child?
I took piano lessons for a very long time. My mum began to enrol me when I was 4, and since then I have never taken a hiatus until I was well in my mid-twenties, and even then, the reason why I quit was because it clashed with my professional schedules. I love playing, and I've always been on the hardcore classical side. I mean, if you ask me to play anything pop or ask me to do improvisation jazz style, I would most probably disappoint you. But for me, playing piano is a highly rewarding past-time activity and I would recommend it to everyone in a heartbeat.
But I didn't always feel that way.
In fact, in the course of 20+ years I was taking lessons, there were a few occasions when I threw my hands in the air and expressed my desire to quit to my mum. I was fed up at that time. I saw how others play effortlessly and when I looked at my skill, I felt like giving up. At those wavering moments, my mum sat me down and looked at me in the eyes, asking me if I truly wanted to give up because I hated playing piano or because of other reasons. Because once I give up, I would not be able to go back to the way I was. It was either standing still at one spot or going forward.
Now I'm glad I chose to go forward with the piano lessons. Music gives me so much inspirations in my art and my daily life, and the ability to play an instrument is definitely a great bonus. Still, as a girl who practically growing up playing piano, I know first hand how hard it is to decide to continue especially when you are just a child. Unlike dancing or sport activity, the moment you take on piano, your brain is forced to do something so difficult and fascinating at the same time. Within the next 2-4 years, your brain and hand-eye coordination will be pushed to synchronize left and right hands while counting the beats and using your emotion to match the music at the same time.
Regular practice is a must, especially if you want to succeed in mastering your instrument. You might disagree with this view, but I remember I could get away with once-of-week classes with no practice in between when I was learning the ballet or swimming or tennis. Not with piano.
For a small child, practice can be tedious, and it could be hard to maintain when you had to do it by yourself. Aaaaaandddd....if you happen to have a parent who could actually play the instrument, there might be a whole lot more expectations and a great deal of personal training (well, I'm doing this to my kid, by the way - can't help myself here, although I'm trying hard to tone it down). Worse still, if the parents decided to teach you themselves, everyday might turn out into private piano lessons.
I learn that things will definitely get more interesting, though, once you master a certain level of piano playing. For me, it's taken roughly 10-12 years. And once I had the initiative to practice by myself, I took ownership on the choice of music I play and that's where I truly realised how much enjoyment I got from playing piano.
As a mother, I'm trying to keep my childhood experience in mind when I started enrolling the 3-year-old Miss O to play piano back then. I'm trying very hard to be sensitive to her need and desire when it comes to the continuation of the lessons, but I also realised that it is really up to ME to ensure that she gets through the worst period of learning to play piano. The first 10 years are really crucial. They will either make or break her interest. And to those who asked me if I will let Miss O quit if she ever expresses the desire to stop, here is what I will say to her - that she can never go back if she quits. I will ask if she wants to quit because she feels that the piece she is playing is too difficult or if she truly hates playing. So far, she seemed to be able to overcome the desire to give up and became really encouraged with the sound she was able to produce, but of course things remain to be seen. Plus we're no prodigy, so of course we have the struggles normal people face when learning a new skill.
While maintaining this view, though, my husband has posed a very interesting question for me. How far and how long will it take me to determine that our daughter is playing piano because she loves it or because she only wants to please me? With that in mind, I cautiously tread forward and watch her very closely - face, body language and all.
Anyway, here's this week comic strip. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did drawing it.