Monday, August 04, 2008

First Piano Lesson!

Dave reminded me that I left out a major event last Saturday. Somehow upstaged by the county fair, and having no photos, I forgot to write about Gabriel's first private piano lesson! (How could I do that to Bonne Maman?)

Dave took him to a teacher who'd been referred by another teacher who'd been referred to us by a longtime student, but had no openings. Dave first talked to the potential teacher on the phone, explaining that we'd like flexibility in the lessons -- still structure and basics, but to let Gabriel's own musical interest drive the style of music he learns. (I think back to taking classical piano lessons in the 7th grade after teaching myself the entire Maple Leaf Rag....I think I'd have done a lot better if my teacher had been amenable to Scott Joplin over Bartok.)

So, a half-hour lesson was scheduled for last Saturday, and Gabriel was excited about it. First, the teacher asked him to play whatever he wanted, and he played "American Patrol" -- a Glenn Miller big-band tune! Not usually a kid's first choice. Dave said she was immediately impressed not that he could play it, but rather by how much of it he knew. Then "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," both hands, and several verses. Same thing -- pretty advanced for a 6-year-old who's had virtually no instruction and has been playing well under a year. She worked with him to show him some basic technique, and took a moment to catch Dave's eye and say emphatically, "He works hard!" Arguably that's the most important thing.

Overall it went really, really well, though a half-hour seems to be his limit. Leave 'em wanting more, a basic tenet of showbiz, right?

So we're going to continue the lessons. Scheduling will be a challenge, but she's going to try to squeeze him in nearby, as she genuinely felt his ability is exceptional.

Dogged pursuit or raw talent? Hard to say, but it doesn't really matter. Gabriel's interest in music is no passing phase. Even if piano lessons don't work out, he can take other music lessons, or try again later. He might not like routine directed practice, for instance, and that's fine too (though we won't pay for lessons in that case). I really feel that we should encourage music, but not force it down his throat either. If it's in him, it'll come out in its own way. Private piano lessons is a good start, but it's by no means the end.

One wonderful thing that's coming out of this is that Dave finds himself poking around on the keys himself too. "It's ironic," he observed, "that what stopped me playing myself is what's getting me to start again." And that "what" is Gabriel.

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