Tales from the Lesson Studio: Part One

My final student of the day, a lad of eight years abruptly stopped his rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” He wrinkled his nose.
“Did you fart?” he asked.
“No,” I lied.
“I’m pretty sure you did,” he said, his expression grave, “Unless you just smell like dog crap all the time.”

Can’t get enough of these kids.

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Be Water, my Friend

One Sunday June 1st, my piano students had their summer recitals.

I’ve been teaching for five years now and we do our recitals twice a year. However, this time was special because at the end of the summer, I’ll be leaving dirty ol’ Edmonton behind and shacking up in Vancouver to finish my degree. It was the last recital I’d ever get to do with these kids. Some of them have been taking lessons with me since day one, some of them since month one. Some of them have only been with me for a few months, and it was their first recital ever. Some of them aced their pieces, others had trouble. Some were playing “Turkish March” and “Maple Leaf Rag”, others were playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Hot Cross Buns”.

I was so proud of every single one of them.

It’s not easy to get up onstage in front of your family and peers and a pile of strangers you’ve never seen before in your life. We had a pretty good crowd, probably around 100 people. For many kids, going up and playing in front of other piano players who might be better than them is terrifying. So regardless of “how well” they played, my heart leaped for joy and I had a big shit-eating grin plastered on my mug as soon as they ascended the stage and planted their buns on that piano bench. I tell all my students that being a little nervous isn’t a bad thing, because it means you really want to do a good job. Nerves should be the sparks to your passion-gasoline, or some bullshit.

After the performances I was asked to say a few words to the crowd. A sort of “sending-off” for everyone, even though I’m still going to be teaching until the end of August. So I went up, cracked a few goofy jokes, told everyone how hard the students had worked and how much courage it took to get up there and jam. I think I might’ve actually said “The piano bench is like a trench, man” and somehow I got a laugh. I’m an idiot, but for some reason, it works.

Partway through my little spiel, I noticed something is wrong. One of the ladies in the front row, Nicholas’s mother looks very confused. I’ve never made a speech at previous recitals. What’s the deal? When I mention my move to Vancouver, she burst into tears and had to leave the studio. I saw Nicholas in the crowd and gave him a Look. He mouthed “oh, crap.” He’d forgotten to tell his mom that I was moving away. I’d told him and his dad, but the news hadn’t reached his mom for some reason. Nicholas and I have been working together for four years now, since he was barely taller than my knees. We get along really well and his parents told me that having a young adult influence in his life has done wonders for his social anxiety and self-esteem. Nicholas is into Lord of the Rings, Batman, Elder Scrolls and Black Sabbath so he’s like the little brother I wish I had sometimes.

Anyways, the incident got me thinking a little bit. About my roles as a teacher and the impact that I might have on some of these kids, and in turn, on the parents as well.

I fucking love teaching piano. I love working with kids on a one-on-one level. I love seeing the light bulbs go blinkity-blink in a student’s eyes when a difficult concept comes to life in their mind and fingers. It’s a rush, and it’s stronger and more rewarding than any drug. I work six days a week in my studio, but I don’t even call it “work”. when about it to people. I mean, I sit on my arse and help young people make music and their parents give me money, are you even kidding me right now? Awesomeness. And yet, I’m a total idiot goofball dorkus-malorkus duncykins in the studio. When I’m not teaching kids how to play their major scales and “Let it Go”, I’m quoting Bruce Lee and telling kids to think about dead spiders when they curl their fingers and making fart jokes (usually following an actual fart, I swear to Oden it ain’t me, most of the time) and yet, moms are bursting into torrents of grief in public because I’m leaving? Man. That’s a kick in the big ol’ heart-of-hearts-of-fockin’HEARTS, dude.

I’m gonna miss these kids. Every single one of them.

Even little Marty who (for real) punched me in the dick last month.

That little bastard rocked the shit out of a Bach minuet on Sunday.

Anyways, that’s all I got. Teaching rules, kids are fun, I’m an idiot who worships Bruce Lee and Tony Iommi. I’ll leave you all with one of my favorite quotes that I use on all my students. It’s great for all aspects of life, not just kicking ass or playing Beethoven Sonatas.

“You must be formless, shapeless. Like water. When you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. When you put water into a teacup, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, or drip, or creep, and crash. Be water, my friend.”

 

‘Til next time, Dragons.