This was a kid who loved to play piano. Not good at reading music, he loved pop songs. He could play anything.
He had a little brother, who played too, and wanted to learn whatever his brother learned. It was very hard for the younger brother to keep up.
Since he wasn’t good at reading music, I tried to increase those skills very slowly, but concentrated on his love: hearing a pop song and then playing, however simplified.
Here was an eight year old playing Werewolves of London, Imagine, Great Balls of Fire. And of course Beethoven and all the others, but his love was whatever pop songs his dad played out of his record collection.
It was very hard to get him to apply himself to reading music. “I want to play Brubeck. I want to play Charlie Daniels.”
The problem was his dad. An arbitrage lawyer in Manhattan, he was an imperious, arrogant man who hovered over the lessons, scowling and barking orders. “Sit up! Listen! Stop wiggling or no dinner.”
Luckily, the father was divorced, so we would have half the lessons at his mom’s house, where there was a peaceful atmosphere.
Then disaster struck: Dad decided to take control.
“I don’t approve of this numbers stuff. I want him to read music at the conservatory level.”
I pointed out the difficulty he was having with reading music, and the amazing facility he had with playing pop songs by ear.
It made no difference.
“He’s going to the conservatory.” I won’t say which one.
And that was the end of fun afternoons trying to figure out chords, trying out new songs he had heard.
I still had lessons with several other kids in the neighborhood, so I would see him sometimes playing in his Dad’s yard.
After a couple of years, I met up with him as I walked to my car.
“Still playing?” I asked hopefully.
“Nope. The conservatory was so boring. All they did was read music.”
I asked, “Well, don’t you want to play some regular old pop songs once in a while?”
He shuffled off. “I don’t want to play any more.”
And he was gone, back to house of the Master of Arbitrage.
Copyright 2014 Walden Pond Press