Kid’s computer time affects piano lessons, usually in a profoundly negative way.
I’ve been able to compare children taking piano lessons when they have just finished an hour at the computer, and when they have not spent an hour at the computer.
In all instances, the piano lesson came directly after the hour of computer activity.
While this is not by any means a scientific sampling, some interesting observations can be made.
For example, I have a student, a bright boy of eight, who is so motivated that he knows all about Bizet’s Carmen, and the life of any classical composer you can mention.
He’s hooked on Scooby Doo, too, so his tastes have a wide and unusual range for his age. He likes classical music and computers in about equal measure.
By this I mean that he is an exceptional intellectual talent, interested in adult things such as art, music, literature and history. All of this, according to his mother, is at his own instigation. She doesn’t force-feed him culture in any way, but it is made available in the household.
His lessons are scattered in any case. This is a boy who is hyperactive, and may be have ADHD for all I know. But we have worked out a set of games that calm him and allow him to play me the songs we have worked on, and progress slowly into reading music and other basic musical skills at the piano.
Just so you know how deep this child’s thirst for culture is, he is the only child I have ever had walk up to me and say, “Teach me Handel’s Water Music right now!” which we did, using Piano by Number.
But his lessons often consist of moments of clarity followed by episodes where he practically chews the furniture. In between these moments of craziness, we try to cobble his musical education. He’s very good at all the chords, fingering and sight-reads C position very well.
Then came a day when he had just been on the computer directly before his lesson. His eyes had a glazed-over look. Sluggish and exhausted mentally, he became almost impossible to deal with.
It was as if the computer had sucked out all his energy, and he had none left for the piano, his very favorite activity.
I noted this, and said nothing. The next lesson, I inquired if he had been on the computer.
“No, I just got back from camp,” he said, and happily offered me Schubert’s Marche Militaire, brightly served, and transposed to G major as a parlor trick he often does with a piece he likes.
He had his usual difficulties, dissolving onto the floor if it got too difficult, but nothing I wasn’t used to dealing with using games and humor.
The following week, I was told he had been on the computer for the previous hour.
Once again, this wraith of a child appeared, and dumbly took his place at the piano, quiet and withdrawn.
He was so exhausted mentally that I was unable to interest him in anything, until I made him sit on the sofa and started a game of Name That Tune and played Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.
At this he brightened a bit and we began a game of playing famous pieces that he would try to identify and learn the opening bars or theme. But this was all we could accomplish that day.
Having had the same experience with other children, I conclude that the computer drains their brains, and renders them practically inanimate.
It’s impossible to keep a child from a computer, for it has become such a part of our lives.
But I ask parents to try to save the computer time for after the lesson, or some kids will be unable to participate in any useful piano activities.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press
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