Musical Ability

My First Piano 1986Last week I wrote about the baby grand piano that I am watching for my best friend. So far it is behaving itself, so I don’t have any bad reports to give to her. šŸ˜‰

However, while looking online for more information regarding this particular piano I came across a piano forum where there is information on pianos, repair, practicing, teaching, etc. Basically, anything that you could possibly want to learn about piano and piano music can be found on this site. I have become addicted and check it out about once a day. I haven’t registered, so I’m justĀ lurking atĀ the site right now. I know that’s not proper forum etiquette, but I have to admit that I’m a bit intimidated by the group.

I should probably stop looking at the site. Every time I read a post on there I discover yet another part of my piano knowledge that is seriously lacking. If you want to feel horrible about your abilities then you definitely need to go onto that site.

First I felt inadequate because I don’t play on a $10,000 piano. I play on something that most of those people there wouldn’t deem worthy to be used as pot-hole fill. It is hard to tune correctly, as most of the pianos in its category are, and it’s not meant to be played in a concert hall. After reading these posts, though, I don’t know if I would want to spend the money on the type of piano that they claim everybody should have. One of the pet peeves of the piano teachers are students whose parents don’t get them a decent piano to play. Wow. Talk about snobbery. Sometimes what a student practices on is the very best that their parents are able to get for them. My first piano definitely wasn’t anything that a ‘professional’ would touch. But my grandparents pooled enough money together to buy it for me so that I could begin to explore my love for music. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a Steinway and that it had been painted five different times. When I was in the piano room, with the door closed, I was actually on a huge concert stage and my fans were all amazed to hear just how beautifully I played. Even today the piano that I have is fine for my use. I am not a concert pianist. I play for my own enjoyment. Isn’t that good enough?

Once I got past the point of being embarrassed about my piano, I went into the teachers’ area to see what was going on there. I figured that at some point I could maybe give lessons if I wanted some extra income. Well, after reading those posts I guess that I’m not qualified to teach anybody’s cats to play piano let alone their children. Per the teachers on there you should have no less than a degree in music and preferably you studied at some fine art school like Julliard. It is their opinion that if you don’t have those kinds of credentials then you are doing more harm than good when it comes to teaching piano.

Now, I realize that I only have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and that my ten years of piano lessons don’t count because I wasn’t being taught how to play music from memory or getting prepared for majoring in piano. In fact, my best friend left our piano teacher to find somebody who was better and who could teach her way more. My piano teacher was an older woman who lived up the road from us and played organ at church on Sundays. I don’t believe that she ever got a degree in music or any other musical credentials. What she did, though, was give me the musical foundation that I needed. She was the one who taught me music theory and helped me to become a great sight-reader. She taught me how to play piano and organ, which instilled my love for music. It helped me to be a better singer and French Horn player.

I think that I’ve mentioned the fact that I’ve been playing piano at both Sunday masses at church since Thanksgiving. Do you know that when they posted the position of music director one of their qualifications was that the person should have some sort of music degree? I’m not even qualified to direct our choir! They did hire somebody to direct us and he should be starting in a few weeks. He has all of the credentials that they were looking for and apparently he’s wonderful. Everybody has known him since he was little because he used to be a parishioner. So the people in our choir will finally have a leader who knows how ‘they used to do it’.

I was asked last weekend why I don’t ever give myself any credit. When the ‘professionals’ are telling you that you aren’t good enough, then don’t you have to figure that they know what they are talking about? They wouldn’t be ‘professionals’ if they didn’t. Sure, the untrained ear can say what a wonderful job I’ve done, but they don’t really know.

I guess that I need to make peace with the fact that I’m not ever going to be a Julliard-trained musician and that I’ll have to make very amateurish music on my ‘junky’ piano. Actually, I don’t have to make peace with it because I don’t care. My goal was never to be a concert pianist. I technically never even wanted to be in a band, except my high school band. What I wanted to do was to be able to make music that made my heart sing and gave me a lot of pleasure. I have accomplished that goal. And apparently the fact that I’m not qualified to lead my church choir doesn’t mean a thing when they are scrambling just to find somebody to play piano for masses. I’m sure that if it came down to it and somebody wanted to pay me to teach their child the basics of music at a MUCH reduced price (as compared to the ‘professionals’) then I can do that. If the child wants to go on to a more serious teacher, then I will wish them luck and hope that I did enough to give them a good foundation on which to build their musical career. After all, Michelangelo might get the credit for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but if a proper footer hadn’t been poured for the building then the whole thing would have long ago collapsed.

Piano Deconstruction 2

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One Response to Musical Ability

  1. Jamie says:

    This is a great post! It makes me think of one of the early Presidents (can’t remember which one at the moment) who didn’t know how to multiply or divide until he was elected to Federal office. He’d never needed to know, so he didn’t bother learning. When he got elected, and started doing things that required such knowledge, he taught himself!

    Ironic (and somewhat sad) how quick we are in this day and age to rely on “degrees” and official qualifications to demonstrate value, rather than on proven ability – no matter what its pedigree.

    I’m glad the baby grand is behaving for you, and I think you’d be a wonderful piano teacher! Someone with a genuine love of music, and a willingness to nurture that in students is a far more precious find than someone who’s technically correct but unpleasantly demanding and strict to the point that they kill the student’s love of music!

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