Something obvious, frustrating, usually unavoidable, and often worth the effort

Now that’s an appealing title for a post, isn’t it?  But if you decided to read it anyway, you’re probably someone who will tolerate frustration if you believe the payoff will be greater than the cost.  I spoke with a mom recently who’s looking for someone to work with her daughter on her piano playing.  She’s not just looking for a piano teacher.  What she wants is someone with skill in piano playing to accompany her daughter in her exploration of the instrument.  She knows her daughter is not likely to become (nor at this point interested in becoming) a professional or otherwise masterful pianist, and so her first priority is that she continues to enjoy and learn.  The mom’s experience in piano lessons when she was a child led her to believe that such lessons could put enjoyment and learning in jeopardy.

As a culture we have an understanding of what music lessons are.  They’re regular, usually weekly; you’re to practice in between lessons; you do it the way the teacher tells you.  In other words, we teach piano the way we teach most everything.  We don’t often think about whether or not it’s getting us what we want in the way of development in the area, or whether or not it’s a method suited to everyone.  We assume, it seems, as though someone already did that thinking and we can trust the process they came up with.

Some of the time we probably can, for some of the students.  But it’s a really good idea to think about what you actually want from something like piano lessons, and why you’re looking for a teacher, before you go about your search.  And here’s where the potential frustration comes in.  Like this mom, if you decide what you want – what you think will actually best serve your child – it may well not be the status quo.  And if it’s not the status quo, it may be harder to find.  You might have to sift through lots of what you don’t want before you find what you do – make lots of phone calls, more than you should have to, read lots of ads, ask lots of people for suggestions.  You might have to fail lots of times.  But finding the person could be worth the effort.  If you set it next to the possibility of settling for someone who isn’t what you want, it might get easier to keep picking up the phone.

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