My greatest musical achievement to date has been playing the crash cymbals in high school. Now, I don’t mean to brag, but the year I played, we went to state competition and earned an “I,” the highest ranking a band can get.
Outside of marching band, my crash cymbal playing skill was fairly useless. I admire the talent of those who can play a more practical instrument. I want my children to be proficient in music, and the piano seemed a good place to start with lessons. Of course, we outsourced.
For the past year, my children have been taking group lessons. I didn’t even know one could take group piano lessons, but I am generally open to new things and, lacking even the most basic musical ability, I was willing to concede that group lessons might just work. Plus, it cuts down on commuting.
The instructor invited me to attend the first lesson. I thought I heard her say there would be nine children and five pianos. Apparently, I missed the part about the organ. I braced myself.
Out of the chaos came order. There were kinesthetic activities to engage active bodies, book work to help children get familiar with reading music, flashcards and more. While some of the children worked on activities, there was always a group at the pianos, playing.
I was a little stunned that first time, not sure what good might come of it. As time has gone by, I’ve come to be in awe of the procedure.
When I go to pick up the girls, I enjoy listening to the lessons. The instructor’s voice rings out above the cacophony, “C! A minor! F!” she coaxes as she plays along. It is all meaningless to me. Apparently, it is meaningless to some of the students as well.
The teacher stops the music often to offer individual instructions as needed, then starts again, calling out directions as she goes. “C, Sophia, that’s a C,” she says, and I wonder how she can tell who is off.
Like all good piano teachers, ours schedules recitals. It is an opportunity for the children to showcase their talents to an eager audience. Some people, though, should not attend piano recitals. Those people are called 2-year-olds. I guess I wasn’t thinking clearly — having a house full of kids will do that to a mother — and I brought mine along. She did great for the first 30 minutes, when everyone was getting settled. The start of the recital was, however, the end of her cooperation.
“Mommy, butt!” she announced in between songs. I thought that might be the end of it, so I decided to stay and to hear my kids. Fortunately, they were all at the beginning of the recital. That still wasn’t early enough to stop the noise from my little one.
The speech pathologist in me wanted to point out that using two words together is a developmental milestone that usually takes place by a child’s second birthday. I could have discussed how Sicily’s extensive vocabulary, use of synonyms for the word “butt” and emerging short sentences demonstrated that her language development was coming along fine. The mom in me wanted to slide under the chair. As soon as possible, we slipped outside, where we sat on a chair and listened from afar. Sicily proudly continued naming body parts.
A few weeks later, we were listening to classical music on the car radio. Olivia announced, “That’s Handel. I didn’t play Handel at the recital. I only played Grieg.” I didn’t even know there was a Grieg. Apparently, he didn’t write much for the crash cymbals.