When my oldest son John (now 13) was small, my husband purchased the book The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Although John was just starting his schooling years, I read through the book, and I really liked what I read. Since then, I’ve implemented some of the ideas the authors suggest. One of those ideas was to have every child complete at least two years of piano study.
We’ve done this with several goals in mind. One is that they learn to read music and understand what it means to play an instrument. Research shows that learning music often helps students do better with math, so that was another benefit. I also wanted them to learn the self-discipline that would be required for practicing.
So far, three of my children have taken piano lessons. Here’s how it’s gone:
John started when he was only five, took a couple of years off, then started again. He does well with it, and though at times he wants to quit, I tell him he’s too far along to quit now. So, he’ll probably be working at it until he graduates.
Cassie took lessons for two years, then wanted to quit. There was a lot of sibling competition going on, as she often compared herself to her brother who was both older and more experienced. She has since taken up the flute and is doing well with it. She now even wants to add piano back in again.
Lillie was very enthusiastic at first, but her enthusiasm quickly waned as she, too, began comparing herself to John. She has wanted to quit for quite some time, but I told her she had to finish two years. She did, though they were not a good two years of practice — more often that not she would try to get out of playing, and instead of learning self-discipline, she experienced Mom’s discipline. So, I added on one more year, hoping to end her piano career on a higher note (no pun intended).
Then…I talked with my older brother, an accomplished musician. And he gave me more to think about…
Every child, he said, should learn to play the piano. Of all the instruments, it’s the one that people who don’t make music a career tend to continue playing on into adulthood. It’s a skill you can always use, no matter what your occupation. You can play it at church, for holiday gatherings, for family sing-a-longs. You can play as your children dance around the room, or you can play for a friend’s wedding.
Besides, he continued, you never hear anyone say, “I wish I hadn’t learned to play the piano,” but you often hear people say, “I wish I had stuck with it.”
So now, I’m rethinking their piano lessons. Perhaps Lillie will have to continue on with them and keep practicing. And when she complains, I’ll tell her she can blame it on her uncle.