Thursday, April 24, 2008

Music Lessons

When I was younger, my parents couldn't afford piano lessons for me. I think though, they did harbor some intentions. When I got to high school and my mother struck 4D, they bought me a Yamaha C55N organ. In those days, it was considered medium range because it was about 7.5K which was a lot of money then.

My parents arranged for my music teacher to come to the house to teach me. When I was first introduced to her, I wasn't much impressed with her because she was very quiet and only taught what I was to learn for the day. I thought she was quite pretty and demure but beyond that, she came across as a very 'non verbal' person. Along the way, I found out that she was a former Miss Malaysia/World (1977).

I remember, even when I was to seek clarification on a particular Jazz beat that she was teaching during a particular lesson, she was unable to clarify and deliver properly her explanation. I was cool with her because she never pressured me to do my practical exercises. Much as I enjoyed paying my organ, I didn't quite like the practices that came along with it. My dad was my biggest fan and I was 'forced' to 'perform' for him nightly - those 'performances' constituted my practices. My music teacher taught me the ABRSM theory and Yamaha practical for Organ. This went on for several years and I went on to play for Sunday Masses at Church.

I even went on to teaching some neighbour's kid during my school holidays. I can remember I hated every moment of it. I wanted to 'strangle' the kid because she was yakking and asking questions all the time. I threw in the towel after three months. I knew I wasn't made for this.

Eventually, quitting completely was the most practical thing to do when exams provided the ideal excuse.

Years down the road when I had my own kids, I started them with Piano lessons as soon as I possibly could. I traveled the road many parents have attempted. Many has succeeded, I on the other hand, like some, has failed. I enrolled my eldest daughter for the Yamaha JMC course. This is a real test of patience for a working mother. You had to camp in for your kid's music class every week!

After a while I cajoled my mum into going with my daughter but after several lessons, both grandmother and granddaughter were blur as beagles. I then attempted to send my 'English speaking Indonesian Maid' - that didn't work out either. Finally I did the most sane thing - pulled her out of the Yamaha system and enrolled her under the music teacher in the Ballet school where she was also learning Ballet.

When my second girl came of age, I also enrolled her in both ballet and music at the same school. From Ballet, they progressed to Modern dance and Tap dancing. Soon, I was shuttling four days a week for dance classes and during exam period it was anything from 7-10 times a week because of extra classes and sorts.

Hubs was freaking because our weekends became the property of the ballet and music school. He said that his kids were busier than him and he had to almost 'make appointment to see my kids'. Hmmmm....not very becoming but very honest. We reassessed our priorities and I for one was sure I didn't want my kids to be professional dancers. Maybe I got carried away with keeping with the "Joneses" and was enjoying the mummy gossip (yeah! we go through our phases) that was taking place in the ballet school.

So away with dancing and just concentrate on Music. I got them enrolled under this 'very highly recommended teacher' who was an ex-Yamaha biggie. She operates from two apartments in PJ and is a large and amazing pill popping woman. She is very talented and skilled but unfortunately comes with a horrible temperament and lacking in patience. Nevertheless, she provided my two daughters with some very
torturous but skilled foundation. I tolerated as long as I could and finally I decided, with the support of my two girls to uproot and change music teacher again.

There were several teacher changes after that and each one with a very valid reason and necessary, for that different phase that required a different experience and exposure.

Reasons would include 'loss of interest', 'teacher too lenient or too fierce' and even 'teacher with not enough experience' and so on. There was one instance when I suggested a change because I noticed that there was not much progress and #2 got into a major struggle with me because this teacher had become her mentor. As always 'mum knows best', I won the battle.

It's been a rough journey and because, not only did I have to be in touch all the time with their music progress, I had to also change pianos for their different stages of progress.

Along the years, the most common phrase from the two girls would be "Mum, want to stop piano lessons, can ah?" Mum's response "CANNOT!" I think they got used to my consistent answer and after a while they stopped asking.

As the girls grew into high school, they asked to take up a second instrument. #1 took up the Cello and #2 took up the violin. Finally both girls finished their Piano Grade 8, ABRSM. #1 opted to stop music lessons but loves to sing. She's got perfect hearing and pitching and that's where she's put her music lessons to good use. Give her a music score and she'll hum you the tune.

#2 opted to continue to do her Diploma and will sit for her exams in December 2008. Next year she finishes her Violin Grade 8 and hopes to pursue a career in music. This is the child that the pill popping teacher said 'has no potential'. I didn't believe her and moved on to another who nurtured her and developed her 'luke warm' interest for music into a passion.

It's so difficult to make decisions as parents. Here we want to be the new generation parents who are hip and friendly, there we have to gripe with our kids idiosyncrasies and force them to do 'the right thing' (in our opinion) even though they don't agree with us!

I have to admit that I have 'forced' them to complete their music journey and did not give them a choice to opt out until they finished their grade 8. I am just very relieved that none of them rebelled and turned away from it completely after completing this journey. I didn't want them to regret that they didn't finish on a whim of a decision.

This journey has been one spotted with tears, anger, harsh words,
punishment and prayers but alongside also came excitement, achievements, enjoyment, unity, harmony,thanksgiving, rewards and discipline.

I am a firm believer that a good teacher maketh a good student. I'm not qualifying their music teachers ability and skill, it's just that at different phases of our kids lives we need to have the ability to decide what's next and the right time to (edit) stick to our guns or to move on.


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