Today, a blast from the past, brought to you courtesy of John Jesensky.
You don’t give piano lessons for as many years as I have without learning a few lessons yourself.
When I first began teaching, I assumed all students would be pretty much like myself: dutifully practice their songs in each book each day, having them ready for lesson day.
I was wrong.
Sure, there are a few kids like that. But most — no.
Each week, I spend time with a lot of kids who have rarely opened the pages of their lesson books. But most still seem happy to be at piano lessons.
So during piano lesson, we talk about what went on at school that week. We talk about a birthday party they’re going to. We talk about the weather. I’ve calmed elementary students whimpering over thunderstorms, and commiserated with teens crying over fender benders or perceived slights from a parent, teacher, or friend. And sure, we go over some songs and talk about music, too.
I have to smile at one little boy, who invariably ends his lesson with a big grin, saying, “Wow, I can’t believe how fast a half hour can go!”
I think most if not all of these kids have caring, involved parents. But sometimes you just need to talk with someone you’re not that close to. Let’s face it: how many of us spend 30 minutes during a day with individual family members, one-on-one? I’ve started to refer to some of my students as ones who are using piano lessons as therapy. This used to drive me nuts. Now, I’ve re-thought that.
After all, how many of my students will go on to make a living playing the piano? For that matter, how many will even retain their skills into adulthood? Realistically, most will probably take for a few years before their piano lessons become destined for the foggy banks of their memory, to be pulled out decades later as they shake their heads and remember, “I took piano lessons for a while when I was a kid …”
But what can “stick,” perhaps, is the affirmation they get from some uninterrupted time with an adult who is happy to listen to them each week. One of my main memories of high school band was the director one day saying, “When band is over, all that really matters is how we felt about each other.”
Maybe a lot of us could use a piano lesson each week. Even if we have no interest in the piano.
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