Learning to be an Adoring Audience

Marc and the Piano


After sitting in the FRONT pew for months now, right next to the pianist and the violinist (I mean, really, where can you get such awesome seats for FREE?) Marc pointed to the violinist, Andrew, and said, “I want to do that!”

Yes we go to Mass to pray and give thanks but can’t a mother also double-up on the goals and add, “Be inspired by the music?”We approached Andrew after Mass with advice on how to start a wannabe violinist. His advice, surprisingly: take piano lessons.

What? “Yes,” he said. “ Take piano lessons for a while so that you learn how to read music.”

So we found a piano teacher (and some how encouraged Maddie that she should do this too and after the first lesson she was hooked) and for the past three months we have been taking piano.

And, then we hit a snag.

Marc became frustrated. He LOVES to play by ear. You should hear him pound out the theme to Charlie Brown. We aren’t talking one note at a time, this beginning player with the help of his Dad (who also plays by ear) is playing multiple notes and cords at once. The first thing he does when he comes home from school is to pound out this song. It sounds like it is such a relief at the end of his day.

But, the more tedious parts of learning to play and learning how to read music are frustrating him. They are more difficult—less fun and immediately rewarding. Immediate gratification is this boy’s modus operandi. He refused to practice the music in his music books.

I threatened, nagged. and begged. . .I bribed. . .and then I ignored his protestations. Marc became insistent that he hated piano and didn’t want to take anymore lessons.

As if the music gods heard our cacophony, I received this email from the LOVE and LOGIC website (http://loveandlogic.com). Jim Fay, the founder and an accomplished musician himself, said that when he practiced his instrument, his mother always praised his music—often asking him to play a piece again because she liked it so much. She never corrected him when he played or nagged him about playing a piece better or practicing. She left any corrections to the music instructor. He played while she worked in the kitchen getting dinner ready and she constantly showed how much she enjoyed listening to him. That was encouragement enough to practice.

This was like music to my ears.

I let go.

At the next lesson Marc told his instructor, Omar, that a couple of pieces frustrated him. I also said that I didn’t know how to help Marc work around the frustration and felt like I was making it worse. Omar listened empathetically and then said that we would talk after the lesson.

He worked with Marc through those pieces. And, seeing that Marc also wants to pound out a recognizable song, he started working with him on a piece that is well beyond Marc’s ability. He is showing Marc how to play the song rather than requiring that Marc first be able to read the music.

Marc left smiling and eager to continue.
I learned such an important lesson. Let go. Let someone else work through the problem.

My job is to be the applauding audience to my nascent Beethoven. It causes me to reflect on the other ways as a parent that  I might use a positive tune to encourage rather than my constant nagging and accusatory tones.This might be music to my family’s ears too!




I am a mother of two sets of twins and a singleton. I explore the wild world of multiples and provide resources for other parents of multiples.
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