The End of Piano Lessons

Written on May 17, 2013 at 10:51 am , by

Archie has been pretty quiet lately.

Archie is our magnificent 1897 Steinway upright, which I bought soon after my daughter started piano. Because I shared a sitter with a neighboring family, Nat would watch when their two kids had lessons; when she was 4, she asked if she could start them herself. I was delighted—I believe all kids should study piano and learn to read music, at least for a couple years. In elementary school, I took back-to-back piano and violin lessons (like Nat, it was my own choice; I didn’t have a Tiger Mom). And so it went—scales, chords, etudes, Ode to Joy, Fur Elise, Tarantella, Pachelbel, the standard child’s repertoire. Piano performances with other kids, where Nat and I sometimes played duets. I hadn’t touched the keys in decades, but once we got Archie I fell in love all over again (Chopin! Brahms! Beethoven! Joplin!) and connected with the joy and sorrow in the music in a way I never could as a tween.

It was hard work for Nat. It was also a wonderful process of discovery, accomplishment, pride. And it was fun. When we got the refurbished Steinway we learned the tradition was to name it after the model number—in our case, a Model R. We lived with it for a bit before we decided it was a He. But we couldn’t come up with a name that fit. The old guy wasn’t a Robert, Ricky, Raul, Reggie, Rocky or Rudy. Finally, one day in the car Nat piped up from the back seat. “I got it!” she said. “R-chie!” Brilliant, if I say so myself.

The pieces got longer and harder; so did Nat’s homework assignments. I had to cajole and nag her to play. Month after month, I could see her patience fading. She wanted to get practice over with rather than working on those difficult passages over and over until they flowed under her fingers. I gave her the option of quitting, no blame, no shame. She said no, but she never played on her own. So finally I made the decision for her, and after 7-plus years the lessons ended. Both of us were more than a little teary. We miss our wonderful teacher Elizabeth,  (as do our cats, who would lay at her feet during lessons), but we are now dear friends and will stay in touch. I’m using the music money on concerts, plays and exhibits, exposing Nat to as much art as possible. And I’ve told her to take good care of dear old Archie after I’m gone, so he’ll be there for her kids—and for her to rediscover, just the way I did.

3 Responses to “The End of Piano Lessons”

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  2. This is very close to my story, except that my son only liked piano lessons for a year or two (he started when he was in Kindergarten), but I did not let him quit for 7 years hoping that he will get used to the idea or fall in love with it. He felt happy only during annual recitals, performing in front of friends, family and other students, but when it was time to go back to the lessons and practices and he was no longer happy. Just like in Paula’s post, the homework and other activities increased ( he starts 7th grade this year) and I finally gave in. I spoke with other moms, who told their kids while they are making decisions for them, the kids will continue lessons, but I don’t feel right forcing him any longer. I am glad he had some experience and he can read music, but I know it will fade away (my own experience) and he will lose what he has eventually. I signed up my youngest son and hope he will learn to like it. Thank you for the post.

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