Learning to play the piano was an experience that I sort of fell into. My mother was one of the few piano teachers in the small town where I grew up and she instilled in me a passion for music from an early age. I remember being about four years old watching student after student come to our home for a lesson as I peered around the banister of our stair case, eyes wide with amazement.
Naturally, when I got a little older I also wanted to be one of mom’s students and learn how to play all of those memorable songs I’d heard while watching my Saturday morning cartoons.
I remember the first time I laid my fingers on those keys (unable to reach the pedals), I took to it slow at first, but then playing came more and more easily. The problem? Sheet music.
While I had a keen memory and a good sense of timing, I had little interest in learning or understanding the notes of the scale. I remember thinking to myself that if I could play the song from memory, then why bother?
As much as my mom loved me, she couldn’t shake that music teacher instinct and forced me to go over flash cards repeatedly to make sure I knew the scales back to front. I had no idea there would be so much studying involved!
While we often bickered about its importance, over time, it became a little easier and while I shudder to think about how many times I heard ‘Every Good Boy Does Fine’, something started to click. Not only could I now READ sheet music, but I was actually ENJOYING it, as if it were some magical, secret language that only I could understand.
With varying degrees of success, I began to write my own short songs to play on the piano and my mother was always there nodding, approvingly (even if it WAS written in crayon).
All in all, growing up with a music teacher definitely had its moments of frustration, but mom knew a thing or two about the piano and made sure that I was learning all of the intricacies of the music along the way.
She approached music teaching the same way she approached teaching me anything; with an emphasis on learning it all the way and appreciating even the elements, I didn’t understand. Mom’s still teaching students around the community to this day and is now looking into starting her own music teacher website or community group for like-minded instructors in the area.
As for me? Well, now I’m all grown up, but I’ll be making sure that my children learn music the way that I did (even if I have to cheat off a website here and there).