Children have piano talents hidden by the act of growing up.
How kids learn the piano is a mystery to many, and that includes a lot of piano teachers.
For parents, even those with some musical background, enrolling their children in piano lessons is largely a leap of faith.
The parent hopes the teacher will not alienate the child from the greatest instrument on earth, and pays them for ostensibly doing so.
But statistics are grim. 9 out of 10 children who try the piano using the conventional starting methods will fail.
Conventional piano teachers go from page to page, boring thier students with “fake” music and exercises they neither know nor like.
It must be someone’s fault, and the piano teachers have said for centuries that they bear absolutely no responsibility for this.
But that’s rather strange. If, for example, golf teachers had the same track record, there would be almost no golfers.
Since I’m one of those rare piano teachers that get any child to play, and enjoy it, I assert that this broad majority of piano teachers are wrong, and are in fact responsible for the failure of most students.
You have to understand how the average piano teacher thinks. Here are a few examples:
“I learned the old way, and so will you.”
“If you fail at my method, you had no talent.”
“I don’t know how teach any other way than the way I was taught.”
“If my method doesn’t produce results, it’s your fault.”
“I’m here to pass on the tradition of musical knowledge. Take it or leave it.”
They go from page to page in the old texts, boring and frustrating generation after generation of kids.
Here’s a personal example from my own past.
I didn’t start out at the piano. I played the clarinet first.
I had never played an instrument. I got private lessons from a man we’ll call Mr. Jones.
I could play the notes, out of tune and squeaky like any 8 year old. But Mr. Jones wanted perfection, and wanted to hear the clarinet as he played it, which was very well.
He insisted I play “long tones,” wherein a clarinetist takes big breath and plays a note for a very long time. Long tones teach many valuable aspects of the clarinet. When Mr. Jones did it, it was beautiful. When I did it, it sounded like a lamb being slaughtered.
Finally, after several months, he sent me home with a note that read:
” I cannot teach John. He has absolutely no musical talent.”
I have treasured that letter ever since as a measure of how shortsighted music teachers can be.
Why? I may not be Beethoven, but I’ve had a distinguished career conducting, composing and playing the piano. Not only have I given myself much pleasure with music, I have given it to others. Had I taken Mr. Jones’s assessment of my talents, I would have become something else.
But, back as a child, I also played clarinet one day for a group of my father’s artist friends, the painter David Park, who had a jazz group. They took delight in the one song I knew, and made me play it over and over again as they wove variations around it.
My point is that, to me as a child, music had much more to do with playing clarinet with those jazz guys and enjoying it, than slaving away with Mr. Jones and his long tones.
Playing with that jazz band didn’t kill my clarinet career. Mr. Jones did.
The lesson? It’s better to show a child why they should learn something than to force them to absorb it on a level other than their own.
When I played with the jazz band, it was a raucous celebration.
When I played with Mr. Jones, it was worse than a trip to the dentist.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press