Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I've got the music in me... maybe

A while back, I blogged about the ordeal that was Andre's Grade 5 theory exam. About that time, we also came to the decision that it was time for Andre's piano lessons to end.

It wasn't an easy decision. I had personally hoped that he would at least take piano lessons till the Grade 5 level (for practical) because before that, I believe it's hard to make a call if the child truly has no interest or if he merely doesn't like to put in the time for practice. I blogged about this philosophy here.

However, over the past year or so, the time pressures on Andre began to take their toll. What with school work, tuition and badminton training, he had hardly any free time left. He would practise the piano only when I nagged him to and at times, he would kick the piano in frustration or burst into tears when he couldn't get a piece right. It became increasingly obvious that something had to go - and piano lessons were at the bottom of the hierarchy.

I was pretty torn over this decision, especially since both Uncle Peter and I realise that Andre actually has an ear for music. But after the last set of tears, for the sake of his own sanity (and mine), I finally surrendered. I allowed Uncle Peter to sign him up for a Grade 4 practical exam, which he took on Tuesday, and that marked the end of this chapter.

I would say it wasn't in vain. For almost 5 years, Andre had some music drummed into him weekly by the wonderful Uncle Peter, who became more than a teacher but also a counsellor and friend. The two of them shared a fantastic relationship, it was common to hear laughter emanating from the room during piano lessons.

And of course, the music. More important than the ability to play the piano, Uncle Peter has managed to make Andre NOT hate music. In fact, when I asked Andre whether he would ever continue his lessons, he surprised me by saying he might take them up again in the future, though with the caveat that there be no exams.

That's good enough for me. Meanwhile, I made sure I recorded Andre playing his Grade 4 exam pieces. This might be the last time I'll ever hear him play anything!

1st piece

2nd piece

3rd piece


Puzzled by Puzzles! said...

*The learning never ends* I got this from an email from a friend recently. I think both of u have made the right decision for now. It doesn't mean that he will stop loving music. With this background, he may continue with piano or pick up another instrument later. Taking exams does kill the interest for some kids. I hv totally diff approaches for both of mine. Elder dd just took her grade 8 2 days ago. Ds has never taken any practical exam (I guess he is ard G5 level) ... only G5 theory 3 yrs ago. I smiled when I read the part on hearing laughing during lesson. I think this is the most impt in learning music. To be able to get the right teacher and to learn & enjoy the lesson at the same time. With our current teacher leaving soon for overseas studies, I hv to embark on my search mission ago soon.

monlim said...

Definitely enjoying the music is the most important thing and I realised that with Andre's crazy schedule, music has become a chore. That's why I decided not to push it anymore. Hopefully in the future, if he decides to restart lessons, it'll be on his own accord, then he can focus on just enjoying the music.

Would you like to consider Peter as your kids' piano teacher? If so, ping me :)

Anonymous said...

hi Monica,

I've enjoyed reading your blog! Can i have Peter's contact? cos i'm looking for a piano teacher for my daughter who's 3 years old. (of course i'm not intending to start her immediately- heh)

Do you have to travel to his place or he comes to your place? Does he travel to only certain areas? What are his charges like?

Thanks for entertaining my questions... you can reply me at my email:

Thanks again, Carol

monlim said...

Carol: Peter goes to your place, his charges are slightly higher than others, I think, but I guess it's for the convenience.

If you're not intending to start right away, perhaps you would like to email me again at a later date for his number? I know his schedule is pretty full, so it's probably more helpful for you to contact him when your daughter is ready.

Thanks for reading!

Jo said...

Hi Mon

Wow your post is timely as I am also going thru the same dilemna with my girls. When they first started piano lessons a few years ago they were not doing any swim training. Now, it's hard to juggle both and studies. Plus my elder daughter was also learning the violin and I have been struggling with whether she should give up one instrument because I was told she is musical but it's just such a time constraint.

I think it would be sad for either of my girls to give up music lessons and already their progress in music exams has slowed down to a practical halt ! No practical or theory exams this year - next year is pretty much a question mark because they are supposed to do G5/G3 respectively so a lot of time for practising is required. Sigh.

Ironically I am also looking around for a change in piano teacher ... how do I email you or "ping" you for his contact ?


monlim said...

Jo: It's such a delicate juggling act, isn't it? I think it's such a waste to give it up but the time commitment is just so great.

You can find my email address on my business website (in my profile). Sorry, don't want to list it here openly!

monlim said...

I'm getting quite a lot of requests for Peter's contact and he has limited slots, so please email me only if I know you personally or you have been a long-time reader (and interacted with me) on this blog.

Thanks for understanding!

Karmeleon said...

LOL ... does Peter teach 3 year olds? My youngest started at 2.9yo, but not many teachers are able to handle this age.

monlim said...

Karmeleon: I'm not sure, sounds a little young to me! Would you like to email me?

Karmeleon said...

@Mon: Oh, we don't need a teacher. Our little boy already has one and works well with her.

I'm only highlighting to Carol up there that it is possible for 3yr olds to learn piano, but it has to be with a suitable teacher. Not all piano teachers know how to teach the very young.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mon, learning piano is definitely tough on the parents!! LOL.
In any case he has found his forte in badminton, piano can always be a constant hobby for him for leisure and there is no end to learning hobbies especially if he is unplucking music not because he dislikes it but more so due to time factor.


monlim said...

QX: I know what you mean, I came to the realisation that if I forced him to continue lessons, he might end up hating music, not loving it. Which would defeat the purpose! This way, he can take his time to discover music for himself.

Anonymous said...

@Karmeleon: Thanks for the info. Altho' it is possible to teach 3 years old music, i'm not sure whether my girl is ready yet.

Most importantly, i want her to enjoy playing piano and don't find it necessary for her to take exams for every grade.


monlim said...

Carol: Agree with your stand, start your girl on piano lessons only when you feel she's ready, then she has a higher chance of enjoying it.

Karmeleon said...

Yeah - definitely only when you feel your child is ready. Parent will certainly know. I only started my 3yo on formal lessons bc he had already been playing tunes by ear himself on the piano, although one-finger style. He refused to listen to suggestions from me about just "trying" some fingering, and I didn't press it since he's so young either. I sent him for a trial lesson, and that one lesson alone, he started playing with fingering. HAha. Hence the journey began. I have no experience with kids learning so young. My elder ones all started at 7 or 8yrs.

Wayne & Kim Giap said...

Hi Monica,

Would you like to let Andre continue to learn music but without taking the exams? My daughter took her grade 4 exam early this year and is still taking weekly lessons without any plans for exams. This approach has worked beautifully well. She is highly motivated to practise her pieces as the learning has become so fun when exam is scrapped. Of course there are days when school homework load is simply too heavy and she skips the practice. Take note of the article in yesterday's edition of the Straits Times. It's a pity when a child stops playing when he no longer affords the time to practise well for the exam. It should not be all or nothing. Shouldn't music learning be a pleasure? When the PSLE ends in early Oct, my son will pick up piano again after a 18-month hiatus. The sister's enthusiasm has rubbed off on him. My long term goal of them learning music is that they continue their education and exploration into adulthood and they can articulate their feelings through this extra avenue. Have fun :)


monlim said...

Kim: Thanks for the suggestion! I totally agree that exams may kill interest. Actually, after his Grade 1 exam, I stopped piano exams for Andre. He has, in fact, been going without exams for the past 3 years.

However, his teacher found that without the exams as a target, Andre just stopped practising altogether. So he recommended taking the Grade 4 exam this year and in a way, it did push Andre to practise more. I think for him, the issue is that his interest in music is lukewarm. His real passion is sports. That's why with the school workload etc, it became a chore.

Perhaps in time, when he matures, he'll rediscover the piano again, in which case, we'll be happy to start lessons again but probably without exams. That's my hope anyway!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mon, I have always enjoyed your blog and have left messages once in a while. This post is so relevant to me right now and made me feel less guilty that I am allowing my son to give up an instrument he had been playing for some years now. My son is taking violin exam this year. His first exam - and probably his last.

I promised him that he can stop the violin after the exam - and therefore he was so dissapointed to hear that the exam is only in September!!! Like what you have said, it seem like such a waste - especially if the kids can actually play the instrument.

After some serious thinking, I have come to a conclusion that if it has become such a chore - for him and for me, then perhaps there should be better use of time and resource, which can be put into something they love - in which case here, is also badminton. That way - all I need to do, is just to ferry him there and I don't need to nag :-)

I definitely do not have the tenacity to qualify as a tiger mum.


monlim said...

YL: For sure, don't feel guilty! I think we mums sometimes take too much baggage on ourselves, thinking we're somehow depriving our kids if we don't give them everything. Sometimes, less is more. I've come to the realisation that free time is equally important, and we get to keep our sanity too!

So glad to hear your son enjoys badminton too. That's great - keep up with that instead!

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