Sunday, September 13, 2015

Piano Recital

Jordan has begged for piano lessons over the last few years; we've hedged for a variety of reasons. One, we didn't have a piano. Two, it costs money. Three, she was so over-scheduled we couldn't find time to do it. Four, I didn't have very good memories of piano exams. So we didn't budge for a long time. Jordan kept negotiating, like a dog with a bone and eventually, sometime in April we caved. We borrowed a keyboard and set her up with a piano teacher. The deal was piano lessons but she had to practice each piece 5 times a day and she had to do her theory homework.

And the girl has kept to her end of the bargain. She practised and she conscientiously ran her drills and pieces every day. It paid off because not six months into her lessons, her teacher asked if she wanted to be part of a duet for a recital. Her teacher thought it would be good exposure and it would train her listening and sense of rhythm. So we agreed. She would play the duet with her cousin. But for the entire month of August, she practised on her own. She had to learn her part and be able to play it properly before we got her playing with her cousin. That being said, she did need to practise being in time with someone and her teacher, realising that I had the rudiments of piano playing, deputised me to play her cousin's part.

In the two weeks or so that I played with her, I saw how her ability to count, listen and adjust her speed instinctively improve massively. It got to a point where she played it better than I did and I was the one making the mistakes because I wasn't the one practising it every day and I wasn't the one who had learnt the piece by heart. She would, bless her heart, slow down when I couldn't keep up and count the bars for me when I got lost with the chords. By this last week, both of us had it down pat. I could hear her playing in sync with me and I knew how to make sure that we hit the right bar at the right time.

Today was the recital and she dragged me out of bed early this morning to rehearse one more time before we left the house. I whined about being sleepy and blurry eyed and she told me to stretch my fingers and assured me that she would count for me while I tried to wake up. Once she was sure I was able to play it, even though I was still trying to fully pry my eyes open, she dragged Packrat out of bed to record it on video. Packrat was merciful enough to petition on my behalf that I get bathed and  dressed before videoing it, pointing out that it didn't look so good videoing us with mussed up hair and in our night clothes.

While half awake and playing through half opened eyes, my mind randomly wandered back to an article I had read some weeks back; When Kids Want to Quit and how we could not expect that our kids to stick to their activities forever and that as long as they kept their word and finished what was expected of them, we couldn't expect much more. But what I kept thinking about pertained more to me than to Jordan.

"I remind myself that I was once a quitter myself. Violin, piano, ballet, flute, gymnastics, modern dance – none lasted more than a handful of years. These activities may not have led to Julliard, but they did cement a lifelong love of music and dance. As a semi-professional singer, I rely on the sight-reading ability that I honed at the piano to learn new songs quickly. And I can walk into any exercise class confident that I’ll at least be able to follow the instructor. If my daughters can broaden their horizons and uncover an enjoyable hobby, I’ll consider that a success."

The realisation was that for me, all those years of piano lessons, while not amounting to much except a bunch of ABRSM certificates and still a dismal inability to hear or sing tone, allowed me to be Jordan's stand-in duet partner. It helped that she could play with an adult, whom she could pretty much trust not to botch up so that she could focus on her bit. It helped that there was someone at home to help her get through the difficult parts in her section without having to wait for her lesson with the teacher or get screeched at for getting it wrong. And it helped her become confident enough to play amidst mistakes and be able to adjust for miscounts. It also didn't feel so much like practice for her because it was a "her and Mom' thing and even if it was all I had time to do with her that day, she was happy. It put her in the right frame of mind to go up on stage and play in front of a crowd. It made it fun for her.

That my piano lessons as a child prepared me to be able to do this for my own child, I'll consider that a success. Now to convince my own parents of that my scrawling on the baby grand's keys in permanent marker was part of a larger divine plan


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