Sustainable Piano Lessons?

July 23, 2011 § 4 Comments

The other day I caught up with a mom I hadn’t seen in years. Last I heard, her oldest daughter was playing the cello in the local youth orchestra, taking part in competitions, having 2-hour lessons each week and practicing 4 hours a day.

Impressive? You bet. Parents and teachers  talk about this kind of kid with awe. Even other kids are impressed. There is magic in hard-working adolescents making music. We all wonder about the future-will she be the new Yo-Yo Ma?

The answer in this case is no. Her mom reports that, 10 years later, she won’t  touch the cello. She doesn’t even keep it with her-it is in a closet at her parents’ house. She and the cello have broken up, a common ending to the high-pressure music program she went through.

But, she does play the piano. Playing the piano was just a handy skill. It could pad her resume, help her learn her cello parts more thoroughly.  No one took it seriously: there were no competitions, no pressure to perform, no high-stakes lessons. She just learned to play some music that interested her, learned some skills she could use forever, learned how she and the piano could get along. Learned how music could belong to her and her alone.

This is what I mean by sustainable piano lessons. Piano study need not distort your life. It can fit into it, enhance it, comment on it, make it endurable, give it weight, give you a home to come back to. It doesn’t have to be all about making teachers look good  and preparing you for a career as a performer. It can be just about you and the piano. That’s enough.

You can sustain the study of the piano  for a lifetime. It can sustain you for a lifetime. I try to make my lessons sustainable for all the people out there who need the piano but don’t need the other stuff.

What sustains you? Leave a comment below.

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