Saturday, February 5, 2011

Piano Lessons

I cannot say that I always loved taking piano lessons or the practicing involved. I had my moments just like any distracted child or surly teenager. But I stuck it out and kept it up, thanks to my overdeveloped competitiveness, need for praise, and the constant encouragement of my wonderful parents. I shall be forever grateful.
My mom was pianist herself and had set a rule in our house that each child would take at least 2 yrs of piano lessons (enough to learn at least to play the church hymns). My siblings all met the obligatory requirement, some needing a lot more effort on the part of my Mother to keep them on the piano bench than others. Most of our teachers lived quite a ways away, requiring even more time each week to make it to lessons. Those of us that took from teachers that taught Suzuki also had "listening time" where we had to listen to tapes of the songs over and over again so it would easier for us to learn and memorize. Unfortunately, most of the kids were on different songs so the whole family got to listen to the whole tape nonstop. Ask any of us still to this day, and we can sing you any song from book 1-3. How my mom ever did that with 7 children is beyond me. Even after that, she decided to start her own piano studio and teach other people's children. My father still gets to listen to those same songs. Patience of saints, I tell you.

I was always a musical child. I was singing before I could talk and learned to play the piano before I could read. I begged to take piano lessons when I was 3 years old. I remember loving the music and learning things easily but the drive to practice and get better was more related to competition in becoming better than the older piano students (like my brother). I soaked up the praise and surprise from people like it was sunshine. I played almost every day of my life until I turned 18. I outgrew 3 teachers and ended up taking from a University professor, was the first student in Cache Valley to graduate from the Suzuki repertoire, started teaching other students at age 14, and even started competing in High School. My parents were so supportive that they even made the sacrifice to buy a grand piano for me to practice on. (since my last teacher would not allow me to use our upright at home. I would drive to the college or church to practice for a while). I made the decision to not pursue piano as a career (for which I think my parents were relieved), but I am still grateful and use my talents/skills all the time. What is even more, looking back, I can see that I learned more from piano than just piano. This is expressed well in this talk from the Ensign in 1981 by Clayne Robison:

"We had a hard time figuring out why our parents were so anxious for us to learn to perform good music that they would assume the financial and emotional pressures involved...It is only today that I, begin to appreciate the vision of those two good people. We always joked about their caring more that we be good musicians than that we be good people; but for Mom at least, those two attainments were inextricably connected. Playing an instrument well led to that kind of discipline which would make a good missionary, a good provider, a good parent. Playing an instrument well would lead you into companionships with children who had also developed discipline, children who had a constructive place to spend their leisure hours. Playing an instrument well would lead you to appreciate the beauty of the rest of God's creations. Playing an instrument well would give you self-respect and confidence in the midst of people. If you could stand up to the roughnecks calling you a "Fauntleroy" because you played the piano and had to practice every afternoon, you could stand up to teenage friends who would tempt you by social pressure into smoking and drinking and throwing around casual caresses. It was a worthy testing ground for all of those preliminary Mosiac virtues of discipline, obedience, and sacrifice... Although I honestly feel that there will be many in the celestial kingdom who have no appreciation for a Chopin waltz beautifully played...I am convinced that my own chances of living close to the Spirit have been tangibly increased because of my mother's vision [of encouraging piano lessons]. "


Chris and Kim said...
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Rachel said...

you're amazing Em. It's fun to look back and be thankful for those music lessons even when we (I more than others) fought them and complained about them when we were kids. go mom!

the paul said...

I credit myself with all of your success in piano, on account of how I always pretended to be worse than you, to bring out your competitive drive.

You're welcome!

Anonymous said...

I miss hearing you play:)
Thanks for all of the times you willingly shared your talent! you're the best

Karen Ella said...

ah! beautiful, as i forgot how stunning your piano playing was. could i have a CD please? ;)

D.I.M. Incorporated said...

Absolutely beautiful! Maggie made me play it 3 times. :)