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My "Practice" Story

At the age of eight, I started piano lessons with great enthusiasm. My parents had an old upright cabinet grand (I am talking HUGE) given to them. It was out of tune and some of the hammers would break off periodically, but I would sit down and pick out tunes on the piano.

My first lesson was great. The teacher gave me the red John Thompson method book, showed me keys, fingers, and notes and had me start playing a song.

I went home and practiced all week, and was excited to return to my lesson.

I played the song proudly.

When I finished, the teacher paused a few seconds, then said "Did you practice this week?"

Suspecting something was amiss, I nodded silently "Yes."

'I don't know WHAT you practiced."

And there went my enthusiasm for piano.

It seems I had gotten the keys mixed up, and had played the pattern correctly, but started on the wrong notes.

Now, this article is not about where the teacher went wrong or the problems with the John Thompson method, and there is plenty to discuss. This article is about how I started practicing again.

I was then and still am a very active person. I preferred to be outdoors riding bikes or playing pick up games of kickball or basketball with my neighborhood friends, rather than indoors. So after my unfortunate second piano lesson, it became my routine to have my lesson, play outside all week, wait until an hour before my lesson to run home, practice a few minutes, then walk to my piano lesson.

It was ugly, in a quiet sort of way. The teacher never yelled and she was not one of those "ruler slappers" about whom you hear stories, but it took a long time for me to get through a simple piece.

This went on for over a year, and I wanted to quit piano lessons "soooo bad", but that was never an option in my parents' household.

So what changed?

My moment of truth came at a lesson when I was stammering my way through a piece and the thought "this sounds terrible" popped in to my head. I finished, and the teacher did not say anything, but just sighed, deeply. I felt bad for her. I thought to myself, "she should not have to listen to this every week."

So out of my guilt, and compassion for my teacher, I started practicing, not a lot, but regularly.

And then I found out, "I'm pretty good at this!"

And then I practiced more, and found a lifelong love of not just music, but playing, singing, and just overall participating in music.

Should you make your child practice and continue lessons -- yes! At least for awhile. You never know when they, like me, might suddenly blossom and find their lifelong love of music. Maybe your child will discover that when you do something for others, you are often giving yourself a gift!

Happy practicing!

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