Sunday, July 12, 2009

Comparing the young people of yesterday's post with myself at their age is revealing. I can't recall a time when I didn't play--it was the most natural thing in the world. Though most people would undoubtedly say that I did it very well, I knew that critical elements of technique eluded me. I could not figure out why.

Because I really wanted to play solving that problem became the central pursuit of my musical life. I knew that if I figured out how to play the piano I would have figured out how to live.

Neither of yesterday's young people is a natural piano player. Neither is obsessed with the instrument and I don't expect them to pretend that they are. Our mutual understanding on this point and my conviction that there is more to it than the mechanics of playing frees them to enjoy each other and to dig the music.

They are both well past the age when most kids quit. Showing up promptly at 8:30 every Saturday morning is a sign of how important this is to them. Yet I know that neither would make it into the school where I taught young people until the school's policy became dependent on competition for admissions and advancement.

The point is that uniform emphasis on the physical aspects of playing discourages some really intelligent and passionate kids from studying serious--not the same as humorless--music.