By Cara Martens
Like many kids, I was enrolled in piano lessons at a young age. For the most part, I liked it. Not that I liked practicing, but luckily I could cram beforehand and usually finesse my way through. I had the same piano teacher my last few years in elementary school and most of middle school. I’m realizing now that she was a genius. And her approach taught me a lot more than just piano.
In middle school, I started to really focus in on just a few interests. Friends and homework were taking up more time than ever. My passion and interest in piano was really starting to fade. The music was getting more complex, making it very obvious that I wasn’t putting in enough time on that piano bench at home practicing.
And I’ll be honest (at the risk of offending a few of you), I really couldn’t get into the classical music that more advanced students typically play. And that’s when my piano teacher did something so smart.
I remember that one day, during a particularly brutal lesson, I just stopped and dropped my hands in my lap. I blurted out that it just wasn’t fun anymore. Now this was a big deal for a people pleaser who hated to disappoint others.
My teacher could have responded that having fun wasn’t the point. She could have taken that opportunity to talk to me about discipline. She could have told me to ignore my feelings—to just do it anyway.
But she didn’t. She jumped up from her chair and started digging in another drawer of sheet music. Her face lit up when she found the one she wanted. I can still remember all the notes and how hard the rhythms looked when she passed it to me with excitement. It was my first taste of jazz! And I was hooked.
Do you know what that change of pace did? It bought me another year or two of sticking with piano. My teacher knew that jazz was just as challenging as classical music, just in a different way. And it was something I could get into, that didn’t make practice something to just get through.
And lately, I’ve found myself drawn to the piano just sitting there unused in the corner. I have a feeling that when I dust off those keys and begin to remember what I loved about losing myself in a piece of music, that my daughter might change her tune. You see, I’ve been offering to get her lessons, but so far she’s not really interested. But that’s okay, I’ve got the big picture in mind.
I want both of my kids to appreciate music, but there’s a lot of ways and plenty of time to get there. I don’t have to force it. The more I can turn up the fun, the better the chances that she’ll want to try it.
What can you try with your kids to bring a new energy and fresh excitement into something that may not yet be appealing or that has gotten routine? Comment below.
Cara Martens is the 252 Groups Director at Orange. She loves to write, research, and develop creative ideas. Cara and her husband, Kevin, have two kids and live in Texas.