Music, Art: piano lessons

Tutoring, you notice different knowledge students bring from their backgrounds. The tutor reflects about piano lessons, including his own exposure to music as a child.

By my recollection, my family got a piano when I was about six. At first, we kids didn’t play it; my mother did. She had been a music teacher and knew lots of old show tunes, the music for which she purchased. From the dining room came those old tunes, hours each day, from then on. Often, she sang along. (That house had hardwood floors: I’m sure most musicians would proclaim that the acoustics were probably favourable.)

My mother and I have rarely had much in common, but I’ll admit that she always could play the piano. (Really, she wasn’t a bad singer, either.) I learned the piano because of her. Back then, my tastes didn’t point to show tunes. However, hearing, day in and day out, those songs by Gershwin, Cole Porter, and many others, was an education that, to quote Otto Harbach (lyricist of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes), “cannot be denied.”

My kids (12 and 15) are both in piano lessons. I’m not formally their teacher, but most days of the week I run their practice sessions, and I direct them through the summer. This past one I told them to learn some Gershwin–I guess you could say it goes back to my mother’s playing. They didn’t like Gershwin’s style at first, but my wife and I held the line; they’re doing well now with a couple of songs each.

My kids often don’t want to practice; ironically, they like performing. I’ve watched their progress since they started around 2010 – only seven years ago. What can happen in seven years is unbelievable, as any parent knows:) Moreover, I have no doubt that learning the piano has helped them with every other academic pursuit they’ve faced.

I studied the piano for seven years, some without even a teacher. When I finally gave it up, I didn’t know what value it might have given me. However, I didn’t know I’d be a parent, either. Playing the piano has become a family tradition.

I freely admit I’ve made terrible mistakes as a parent. However, my conscience is clear about making my kids practice the piano, however much they’ve resented it sometimes.

Three interesting points to mention:

  1. My mother, as far as I recall, never made me practice the piano:)
  2. Putting our kids in piano lessons was my wife’s idea; she did it without telling me. Since then, though, I’ve been the enforcer of practicing.
  3. Somewhat ironically, my wife didn’t have piano lessons as a kid; rather, she learned the violin, which her father also plays.



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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