When I was a six-year-old, my mother told me I would take piano lessons. For the next seven years, instead of walking home after school every day, once a week I walked to my piano teacher’s house. I knew her. She was the pianist at our church, and I thought I would play hymns. Imagine my surprise when I had to learn how to read notes on a piece of paper and identify the keys in front of me.

After I had recovered from the shock that playing the piano was work, I found I liked reading music. The mathematical precision appealed to my sense of order, although it was years before I understood that. Once I mastered the basics, I fell in love with music. The piano, however, I did not love. I enjoyed performing at the concerts, and Mrs. Thomas discovered the best way to get me to practice what she assigned was to tell me it was for a concert. I would have stopped lessons after a few years, but my mother was sure piano lessons were essential.

Even at a young age, I understood that Mom demanded I play the piano because she wanted, but didn’t have the opportunity, to learn when she was young. One of the few arguments we had as mother and daughter occurred when I suggested that she take piano lessons instead of me.

1968PianoConcertAs I progressed in my training, I practiced my assigned pieces only during lessons. At home, I practiced rock and pop songs from greatest hits music books I purchased with money earned by doing additional chores. These books had guitar notes, and they fascinated me. My brother had a guitar, and he allowed me to play it, even teaching me a few things. I quickly learned that my fingernails interfered with my ability to play, and was honest enough to admit I wasn’t very good.

In middle school, I convinced Mom that the piano and I would never be good friends. It was with a relieved smile Mrs. Thomas said goodbye after my last concert. She was a great teacher, but I was not an obedient student.

By this time, I had discovered the flute. I loved it. It was a big part of my remaining school years. With the flute, I practiced daily, both what I was assigned and what interested me.  Without the background in reading music, taught to me by the long-suffering Mrs. Thomas, I would not have progressed so quickly. I won awards and honors playing the flute, even performing a couple of pieces that I wrote. Mrs. Thomas was proud, commenting that I found the right instrument.

Years later, my daughter chose to try the flute in middle school. I had worked hard to not force the flute on her but was thrilled to give her mine when she asked. She did not have the same affinity as I and she didn’t stick with it. I count it as on of my best Mom moments that I didn’t force her to stay with something she didn’t enjoy. She eventually took guitar lessons, loved it, and even wrote some music of her own.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that you should try new things, different things. You may even find yourself.

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