Friday, January 23, 2015

Piano practicing woes

My sisters and I all took piano lessons when we were growing up. Practicing was a big and time consuming part of our mom had to make a daily schedule where we signed up for a specific slot to make sure we all had some allocated time at the piano. I got to the point where I was practicing for over an hour each day so I had to manage my time carefully so as to fit in not only practicing piano but also chores, homework, and then when I was older, other extracurricular activities and even a job. I even took piano lessons for two quarters at Snow College.

So as you can imagine, I assumed that my own children would learn to play the piano as well. But that hasn't happened. I started Rebekah and Julianne when they were little with my sister Katie as their teacher. And that was going fairly well....until Katie moved to South Jordan and we moved to Kaysville. The local teacher in our neighborhood was booked. After a year of being on a waiting list she was finally able to fit Rebekah and Julianne in. But by then, they had forgotten a lot. And I had new little Lilian who made it harder for me to actually sit down and practice with the girls.

Julianne was a stubborn perfectionist who always expected to get her notes right the very first try. (No concept, I guess, of what "practice" really means.) And when she didn't get her notes right, she would stand up, walk to the front door, step outside on the front porch, scream at the top of her little lungs, and then calmly come back in and sit at the bench once again. I can only imagine what our neighbors thought. Rebekah was less a perfectionist but employed more of a hunt and peck, play by ear approach to her practicing. She refused to look at the music, even after my explanations of the clues it would give her (up or down, by a step or a skip) even if she didn't know the actual notes. Her practicing sessions were punctuated with tears rather than screams. So after a little while, we kind of gave up. Oh, we had grand aspirations to work with the girls on our own....but it just didn't happen.

So there it was that we had two pianos....a Yamaha baby grand in the living room and a fancy Clavinova digital piano down the hall, with only me knowing how to really play them. The girls got older and busier. Brandon started gymnastics and the crazy schedule that came with it. And I started realizing that if I wanted a piano player in the family, it was going to have to be Lilian...whether she liked it or not.

I patiently waited until she was old enough and then signed her up for lessons this past summer with McKenzie down the street. Lilian was really excited at first. That excitement lasted for maybe about 2 weeks. It was interesting to see which of her older sisters she took after in regards to her attitude about practicing. That it was Julianne's stubborn perfectionism and frustration didn't surprise me overly much...she is like Julianne in many ways.

Piano practicing looks like this much of the time.
Or this.
I hear that this pose isn't all that uncommon at her actual lesson with her teacher. Sigh.

I like it better when we are having a good day and she looks like this.
Much better, yes?

She had a recital in December, with all the students playing Christmas duets with their teachers. (The teachers being two teenaged sisters.) Lilian actually thought that was a lot of fun. And she played really well, I was so proud of her!

After a long Christmas break, Lilian seems to be a bit rejuvenated. I'm glad. Because though at times I do entertain the thought of quitting, I'd really rather not. I don't have as many obstacles stopping me from helping her practice so though it frustrates me to no end to deal with her stubborn antics, I'm hoping that she will get to the point where she really enjoys playing the piano. I can't count how many times I wished I could quit when I was young...but I am so incredibly glad now that my parents never let me. That they stuck it out despite not only mine, but all my sisters whining and complaining. Because I think learning to play the piano and enduring all the practice time is a test on the student as well as the parent! Heaven help me have the strength to get Lilian through to where she appreciates it!

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