Monday, February 3, 2014

Piano lessons

Jeff and I asked Biscuit about a month ago if he'd like to take any kind of lessons or be on any kind of team.

The first thing he said was, "I'd like to take karate lessons!"

So I got on the computer and looked around to see what I could find ... which was plenty of karate teachers with lousy hours. I guess they're set up for stay-at-home moms because all the classes for kids his age were long before I get off work every day.

I was dreading telling him that he couldn't do the one thing he asked to do, but leave it to Jeff to come up with a way out.

"Watch this," Jeff said, and he called Biscuit over to talk to him. "Do you know that when you take karate lessons, the other kids get to hit you back?"

"But Dad," Biscuit said. And anytime he says that, you know some big explanation will follow. "But Dad, I'll move really fast so the other kids won't be able to get me."

"That's not how it works," Jeff explained. "Part of learning karate is learning how to get hit without getting hurt."

"Weeell," Biscuit said, "maybe I'll just wait until I'm bigger, like 7 or 8, to take karate lessons. Would that be okay?"

Jeff just looked at me and smiled.

So the next week, I asked Biscuit if there was any kind of musical instrument he'd like to play.

"DRUMS!" Biscuit yelled.

"Um, no," I said. "You can play drums later, but if you want to take lessons now, I'd like you to play a different instrument. Would you like guitar or violin or piano?"

"Okay, I would like to take piano lessons," Biscuit said.

We signed him up through a website that acts as an agent for music teachers. It's a great idea. The website handles the appointments and the money, and the teacher does what the teacher goes best ... teach.

The only problem is that the people who run the website, well, let's just say "they ain't from 'round here." They were pushy and relentless. I said to Jeff, "Are we buying piano lessons or a used car?"

I was impressed with the teacher's credentials. He's been teaching kids ages 5 through adult for 24 years. His college degree was in music education. And I knew that if we could get past the used car salesmen, we'd like the teacher.

And we did. He was personable and showed lots of patience with Biscuit.

He said Biscuit is "extremely teachable," and that he has good hand-eye coordination, which helps when you're reading music with your eyes and playing the notes with your hands.

The teacher has a baby grand piano and a pipe organ in his music room. A PIPE ORGAN!

I think it's pretty funny because I had my first piano lesson on a baby grand, too. I was in third grade, and it was the fanciest piano I had ever seen. I was so excited when I played those first few notes, and it was fun for me to see Biscuit have that excitement tonight.

The teacher started with Biscuit's right hand and numbered his fingers from the thumb as No. 1 through the pinkie as No. 5. If you play the first part of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," the finger numbers would be 3 2 1 2 3 3 3, 2 2 2 , 3 5 5. And although he was doing it slowly, he remembered which finger went on which note. 

And then, the teacher let him play it on the pipe organ. He started out with all the stops pushed in. (Stops are knobs on the panel of the organ that change the sound of the instrument.) After Biscuit played it the first time, the teacher told him to pull out a couple of stops. The sound got bigger. Then Biscuit pulled out more stops. And the sound got bigger. Then Biscuit pulled out all the stops (and yes, that's where the old saying comes from), and it was a HUGE sound. Biscuit's grin was so big!

I was so proud and had a very hard time keeping my mouth shut! I did wink at him a couple of times.

We signed up for two lessons to start with, just to make sure Biscuit has the attention span, that he likes the teacher, that Jeff and I like the teacher, etc. But if things go as well next week as they did this week, I think we'll be signing up for more lessons.

Here's Biscuit getting ready to play the pipe organ:

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