Whenever I receive emails of concerned parents stating that their children seem to be losing interest in playing the piano, I always wonder, “Did I enjoy playing the piano when I was young?”
I started playing the piano when I was around 5. I could not recall if it was my own wish to play the piano (it has been a long way for me since age 5), but my elder brother had been taking piano lessons at a music center and it was only natural for me to do the same as well. I also could not remember if I liked to practice or not: I was a timid child at that stage, so I did as I was told to.
My Father was very serious about our music education. Not a musician himself, my Father loved to play the guitar while young. He also loved to listen to music, sometimes he would play records at home, from light classical to western pop. He was the one who took us to piano lessons two hours back and forth every week and taught us grade 5 music theory. He was also the one who taught us about discipline in our learning, that we needed to work hard on practicing our instruments.
My brothers and I loved to play piano duets together. They both learned to play the violin as well, so sometimes I would accompany them on the piano. My little brother and I were always eager to give each other aural training; it was of tremendous fun for both of us as we were able to go fast on everything and recognize the nature of an interval in a split second (blessed is our perfect pitch!). Our whole family would often go to classical music concerts together, to listen to solo piano or violin recitals, and local or foreign orchestras. I still recalled that we always had a nice dinner out before an eight-o-clock concert: we rarely went out for dinner so it was a big occasion for us all and sometimes, pizza for us kids!
I went through many piano exams throughout my student life. They were implemented on me when I was younger for sure, and I found them fairly bearable, possibly due to the fact that I did like (or not hate) music and playing the piano. I did go for some higher diplomas on my own later on. It seemed, such idea cast by others surrounding me, that the exam results were almost the only indications of one being a successful piano player or even person, only when I found out in the States that nobody had ever heard of or cared about these “letter-bearing” qualifications. As I mention many times in my post, I do not oppose the idea of taking exams, but they do not mean anything if one stops playing and practicing. Students in North America and Europe are much more musically knowledgeable and can play much better than us without ever taking any piano exams in their lives! They enjoy performing and making music and are confident of themselves.
So what is my point here? It is plain simple. First of all, if you want your children to love playing the piano, it would be much easier that you appreciate music yourself. You have to create a musical environment for your children to submerge in, e.g. singing together, enjoying music at home (playing records or even just listening to the local classical music radio channel), going to concerts (especially the ones suitable for children), listening to their practice, holding mini-performances at home with family and friends as the audience etc. You have to let your children understand that it is not just about playing the instrument, that you too think their music education is also important like their academic education, that it is enjoyable and with discipline, but not as a hobby or game that can be thrown away or stopped at any time, and they should take it as seriously as you do. Whether you like it or not, your children know what you think by how you act and speak. If you do not take your children’s piano practice seriously and always have other priorities over it, then your children would do the same too. If you think that exams are the most important elements in your children’s piano education instead of music learning and appreciation, then your children would definitely resent their lessons and practice. You are the ones who can help them find their ways to enjoy great music and wonderful piano playing.
So, do your kids like playing the piano? I welcome any enquiry and discussion on this topic.