Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple Pie, Piano Lessons.
Enter the child grinning ear to ear. She’s donned in pigtails; I number her cute little piano fingers with sharpy-markers. Now, fade to the boy who wears the musk of recess like an expensive perfume. He’s 10-years-old. School..ugh, piano lessons…ugh, video-games…yes! Fast forward a few years, and come into my studio and watch the pimply-face preteen paining through part “B” of Fur Elise. Before long, she grows into a collector of beautiful music, moving with grace and grandeur as she performs a well-rehearsed Einaudi. Weeks flow into weeks, months into months, school-year into school-year. Students come and go through my studio, and more take their place. Before I know it a decade has gone by. Now two.
Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and piano lessons. Piano Lessons. This is what kids do in America. This is what I do. I teach sharps, flats, Mozart, Bach, scales…rests.
I teach, not because I expect a Beethoven to blossom from my studio. But I teach so that you, too, will be fully human. I teach, so that you will know what it means to have discipline, to practice something over and over, and yet still muddle it up. I teach so that you, too, will know the joy of a job well done. In this microwave-moment world, you will know that beauty isn’t a made in an Instant. That lessons aren’t learned in a Snap.
Lessons. Lessons learned. I’ve learned lessons, too. I have learned that kindness is more important than being right; that silence often says more than correction; that fun teaches more than fury; that self-confidence is often learned in the struggle. If I’m not struggling to teach, am I really teaching? If you’re not struggling, wrestling with the things that really bite in life, are you really learning?
My dog sometimes jumps up on the piano bench when I’m teaching. He likes to listen, but mostly he just wants to be by Mom. (That’s more than I can say for the other teenagers who live in my house, eat my food, and I call my children!) As a rule, when Teddy finds his place on the bench, students simply look at him, smile, give him a loving pet, and start playing. Teddy relaxes into the bench and merely listens.
Often, like Teddy, we are just called to be an audience: to applaud a job well done, to nod when there’s work left to do. The hush of words unspoken by dogs and teachers gives sentiment seasoned with thought, and grace. Happy is the day I learn this lesson. And apply it.