Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Played Out: Why I Never Practice Piano Any More

People sometimes ask me if I "keep up" with my piano and "Do I practice anymore?" The answer is yes and no. Yes, I still play the piano. Do I "keep up" with it? I have two degrees in Piano Performance and spent 6 consecutive years of my life practicing between 4-7 hours a day on the piano (depending on what time in my schooling). So the first answer is "no," there is no way to "keep up" with that unless you a) do it for a career, b) have no life, c) have no children, or d) all of the above.
These pictures are from a different incident, but accurately represent my difficulty with piano practice at this stage of life.

Being a piano major in a former life presents problems though. Everyone that finds this out exclaims, "Oh, you should play something for me!" And I should. Except that the major pieces I have memorized and under my fingers right now are "Jumbo Elephant" and "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam." It's also troublesome because once you have learned how to really play and do a piece justice, it is very difficult to play in a way that is "half-baked" and doesn't really represent how the piece should or could be played (assuming that you devoted the time necessary to play it in such a manner).
Note the expression of relaxation and enjoyment on all-- well at least one-- of our faces.

I had a friend has been bugging me to audition for a local talent contest (yes, I got your email, Sarah) that even has cash prizes so I have been throwing around whether there is anything I could "pull up" for this. It then presents a dilemma: Do you try to scrounge up time to practice something and seize on an opportunity to perform again? Do you publicly play at a level that does not accurately represent your best? Or do you remember that you have children and 5 baskets of unfolded laundry upstairs and scrap the idea altogether?

Yesterday morning I had the brilliant thought that I should play the piano for a while for fun, as a form of "self-care" or "me" time. I waited until Addy and Jackson were sitting up eating breakfast and then I started to play a Mozart slow movement. Jackson immediately left his cereal to go soggy and took this perfect opportunity to climb on me and add a duet part. Recently I have been working with this er, rather, um, challenging child on being firm and sticking with boundaries, so I gently pulled him off my lap and told him that he needed to wait. He didn't like this ("But mahhhhhm, I want you!") but he was going to have to live with it. He climbed on me again and, yet again, I gently pulled him down and said he would have to wait.
The ideal way to practice....
 I pulled out the Schumann-Liszt "Widmung" and started to play through it. Jackson climbed up on the back of me and then held on to my neck and swung from there, laughing at what great fun this was. Again, I stuck to my boundaries and calmly set him down to the side and told him that he needed to wait. Finally, seeing that half-measures were not working, Jackson took a giant plastic sand shovel that I bought the other day and used it to knock my music down off the music stand and knock the piano lid closed. (Exactly how he did this I am not sure....) At that point, all calmness and boundaries flew out the window. I stopped playing and bellowed, "NO JACKSON!!!! NO! NO! DON'T DO THAT!!! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!! No toys on the piano!!!!!" After about ten seconds of bellowing "NO" and scrambling to contain myself, I calmly took him to time out as he sobbed giant tears. At this point, after liberally berating myself for losing my temper, I tried to remind myself that I am not a perfect mom and anyone has their breaking point-- especially when a giant plastic sand shovel is applied to the music rack of your piano.

I think I see simultaneously why I don't practice the piano very much anymore and why the successful Venezualan concert pianist Teresa Carreno (who had six children) reportedly kept a loaded gun on the piano. Um, yeah. That might work. I guess that explains a lot.

"I'm not a perfect person, 
there's many things I wish I didn't do. 
But I continue learning..." -Hoobastank


Emily said...

So I don't play as well as you or have as many kids but I kind of like the shotgun idea. . . .

Rebecca said...

That WAS another life . . . but I know how well you play so you don't need to play for me to prove it!! ;)

Ranell said...

Jackson is a tough one, that's for sure. I've spent some time with him, and he is the type of child that needs A LOT of interaction and attention, and that is exhausting! Hang in there, and keep those boundaries strong! He needs it and YOU need it!

If you're interested, I have SEVERAL books about parenting strong-willed kids because I have a few of them myself (as you know). I found the books extremely helpful. They don't give the answers to every situation, but they help a lot, and often gave me a completely different perspective. Their little brains are wired differently and they need different methods of interacting in order to have a positive outcome. Also, as you're reading, you realize that if there are whole BOOKS written about it, you must not be the only one going through it! It helps just to not feel so alone and helpless.

Love ya!

Greek Goddess said...

I get your post. I really do. I know how you feel in regard to the piano part. But I don't have answers. Sorry. But I do love you! "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven..." Hang in there.

Destroyer said...

So hilarious! It makes me feel sorry for mom and remembering back to when I used to do that to her.