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To Push or Not To Push

That’s a good question 😊

What is the right balance when it comes to learning the piano?

If you were pushed as a child and it was an unpleasant experience you may decide not to push your child all. Buy them a small keyboard and ‘see if they like it’. If they don’t, it wasn’t for them and that’s that. If you weren’t pushed as a child, the opposite may hold true. What is the correct balance?

Music is a language that needs to be experienced just like learning to speak our native tongue. We learned from the experts, our parents. We didn’t learn it overnight and we made a lot of mistakes with our cute words like gaspetty (spaghetti) and hoptacopter (helicopter). They were forms of amusement rather than dismay (think wrong notes).

If no one in the house is playing the piano or creating music, how can we expect our children to want to learn it? Playing music over a speaker doesn't count as creating music.

Group piano lessons is one answer, learning to play piano with our child is another way or just sitting down and playing the piano (if you know how) without any expectations. Having an experience. Allowing them to see you create music.

My own children were enrolled in piano lessons at around 4 years of age. They played with me and regular practice sessions were set up. We created music together and they played in an occasional recital or for friends. All was going smoothly until around age 9 when they pushed back. Piano wasn’t cool and it was too hard. Piano Life became a struggle.

They took a piano exam each year (I like goals for progress) and I let them know around age 7 that they could choose to drop piano anytime but they had to finish out the year and drop it after their exam. That worked for a couple of years because after the exam they were on a ‘musical high’ as we picked out new songs to learn. They signed up for another year. Until age 9.

We finished out the year and the exam went well but my daughter said, "No more, Mom". I was sad. I said, OK, and what are you going to do that is musical now? She chose violin and choir and off we went, enrolled in a choir and started Suzuki violin. Violin was new to me too and I was enjoying her lessons and learning with her. We were having a blast (or so I thought) until she said, I don’t really like violin, can I go back to the piano?

She came back to piano because she missed it. That choice, the fact that she made the choice to return, carried her through all her piano exams. Yes, there were hard spots, (think theory and octave stretches) but she was determined and piano was a part of her life. So was singing. Choir became another love. As an adult she owns her own music school and teaches singing and piano along with her husband (a violinist) and several other teachers.

My son had a different path. He didn’t push back until age 11. He was younger than his sister and I think was inspired by her. He had the same rule though, finish out the year, take your exam and then choose another musical experience. After only 3 weeks off the piano, I heard him crying in his room (this was unusual). When I opened the door, he looked up with tears rolling down his cheeks and said he didn’t realize how much he loved playing the piano. He really missed it. I was shocked. He completed all his piano exams and most of his theory until math took over and engineering became the focus of his life. He took up choir too and still plays as an adult while pursuing a life as an engineer.

I liked that they had a choice as to what they did musically but didn’t have a choice as to whether music was in their life. My sister’s friend hated the piano and changed to flute when she was 11. She is one of the top flute players in the world now. Forcing her to continue with piano may have been a mistake.

When our children push back it may not be for the reason we think. Giving children the gift of music is one of the most precious gifts we give. It gives them the outlet to express their emotions with music instead of words. Their joy, their sorrows, their creativity all are enhanced and expressed through music.

Experience music with your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren. Sit down at the piano and play. Don’t judge, don’t push, just make music. Show them your love for this language of emotion. Keep it in their life in some form and see what happens!

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