When I was seven years old a guy came to our door. He was from the Royal Conservatory of Music, and he wanted to know if there were any children in the house that might be interested in lessons. My parents said perhaps, and he came in. He had with him an accordion, since transporting a piano was not feasible. 🙂 He sat me down, showed me how it worked, and then set out some music that I could try and play. I think it was possibly “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. I did well. He said that obviously I would be a great candidate for a student, and left his information. My parents thanked him, and then promptly found a young woman in the neighbourhood that taught piano lessons for much less money. So off I went to my piano lessons. I loved it. I started in the old Leila Fletcher books – anybody remember them? Orange, then green, then the yellow book. After those I transitioned in Royal Conservatory, Grade One. I progressed through Conservatory, and through different teachers, until I reached Grade Eight, and then encountered a teacher so unkind, and so uncomplimentary, and so defeatist that I stopped. The shame is that none of these teachers put me into the exams, which would have been good to do.
By this time, of course, I was in high school (Southwood – Go Sabres!), which opened up a whole new area of musicianship. I briefly flirted with playing the drums, only because percussion also included keyboards, but soon decided to take up the flute instead. That led to four years of playing flute and piccolo for the various concert bands in the school. However, when the teacher learned that I also played piano, and was quite competent, I also had the opportunity to play for pit bands, jazz bands, and accompaniment for people doing solo instrument work at the Kiwanis Music Festival.
As you can see, music has been, and continues to be, a huge part of my life. I attempted to finish up Grade Nine piano as an adult with two toddlers in the house, but there just was not enough solid practice time to accomplish this.
And now….I teach. Teaching piano has its own set of highs and lows. The highs are many – seeing a light turn on in a student’s eyes as they understand a new concept, seeing the success of a student practicing and being proud of how well they can play their new song, and seeing a genuine excitement in a student who just really loves to learn. These are just a few of so many things I could name, but the ultimately high in piano teaching is recital time, when the students can show in front of non-judgmental family and friends how hard they’ve worked, and what new skills they have mastered. The lows can be quite discouraging – bad attitudes, lack of practice and lack of desire to be at the lesson being the worst. Fortunately, there are many more highs in a week than lows, so there is always something to be happy about!
One thing I can say – that teacher that was so unkind and uncomplimentary? She did teach me well, in that she showed me exactly what I did NOT want to become as a piano teacher myself. I think we all enjoy a hearty “Well done!”, and honestly, even if the music was not so much “well done”, there is always something to compliment a student on, even if it’s just – “Well, I know this isn’t your favourite song, and I’m so glad you were willing to give it a try and play it for me today.”
Are there any other music teachers out there? How about parents whose children take lessons? Do you love music, or were you tainted by a bad teacher? Let me know! And remember – it’s never too late to learn. One of my best students is a 40 year old Mom of two who also holds down a full time job. You can do it!