Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My old faithful

Like humans, objects also show signs of ageing. My 33-year-old piano, according to the piano tuner, needs to be serviced i.e. the pins holding the hammers need to be changed so that the keys will strike very evenly and produce a more crisp tone.

I guess 30 odd years can be considered 'middle age' for a piano. This old piano has served me faithfully for 33 years. And now C is playing it. I still play it but not as often as I used to (which was at least one hour daily) during my schooldays decades ago. My dad bought it brand new back in 1979 as a reward for me for doing well in my Std 5 school exam (now the exam is called UPSR and held in Std 6).

I started learning to play the piano in 1976 with an old second hand piano. It was a good piano and probably as old as my current one now. It had very hard and strong, solid wood. We sold it some years after we got the brand new one.

The first entry in my theory manuscript book in 1976

According to the tuner, my current piano is still in tip top condition save for ageing and the need for servicing. He said a piano should be serviced every 10 years or so. This tuner started in the mid 1970s at the age of 19 and he recalls my piano model well. He even knows how much it cost back then and says that it is now rare and hard to find a used one of this model in the market.

He says pianos these days cost more than their real value. The cheapest model of one popular Japanese brand already costs RM10,000 now and the body is made from MDF board and not solid wood! I'm shocked. It goes to show how commercialised the world has become and people don't make things like they used to -- for the passion, love of it and with integrity.

This revelation makes me treasure my old faithful more. I remember those wonderful carefree days of my youth back in my hometown, tinkling on those ivory keys with joy, and frustration too.

Joy was when I played leisure pieces of pop songs and hits of those days, singing at the top of my voice, sometimes with one or two good friends - Christian songs, Abba, Carpenters, everyone we liked. Even when I didn't have the score, just the chords would do and I'd figure out the accompaniment and notes on my own.

Frustration (and boredom) was when I had to practise countless times over and over again my classical exam pieces, scales and arpeggios, especially when they got challenging in Grade 8, memorising music history notes, practising theoretical composition and harmony for theory exams.

I look back at those days with my piano with fondness and nostalgia. I wonder if they can be re-lived now that I'm a stay-home mum who runs around like a headless chicken!

I've wondered once in a while how different life would have been if I had pursued music as a vocation. Those days, if you're good and want to pursue music, it would mean you ending up as a piano teacher, especially if you didn't have the oportunity to explore the big wide world of possibilities with music overseas. I didn't want to end up as a piano teacher so I went to university.

Now I'm somewhat a piano teacher. I have to guide/teach C, although she is taking a formal music/piano course. Come March, it would be a four-year journey as a piano guide. I've learnt some new things myself over the four years sitting in with her at her weekly lessons, things which the syllabus I learnt decades ago did not emphasise.

After her exams in March, we're leaning towards learning piano for leisure for the meantime, until such time when she is more able to decide if she wants to pursue it more seriously. Even then I'm not sure if taking exams is the way to go. Exams will earn you certificates of achievement and aid you with credits for college admission but then again it's not the be all and end all. There are many roads to higher education or success in life.

I'm not sure if we'll get her a private tutor but I'm prepared to teach her myself after March, before we decide on next steps. I think I might be crazy for wanting to do that. Teacher-student compatibility is very important IMHO and I think the Anna-Caitlin combi is far from compatible. I foresee more shouting matches, LOL! Many people say it's hardest to teach your own child but I'm encouraged by the fact that many have succeeded with more challenging tasks like homeschooling their kids entirely.

One day at a time is my mantra. Don't even ask me what's for breakfast tomorrow.


mumsgather said...

So... what's for breakfast tomorrow? ;) When its your own mum teaching, beyond just plain teacher/student relationship, we have other conflicting relationships getting in the way too which is why it is hard.

Anna said...

That's true and that's why I kinda agree that it's hard teaching your own child. But like I said, I'm encouraged by the fact that others can and have done it and I hope the experience will be more positive than negative at the end of the day. No harm trying for the time being. I of course am not qualified to teach her beyond anything for simple knowledge and fun. For serious learning or taking exams, she'll need a proper piano teacher.