This is the blog for my son –John.
John started piano learning in Grade 1. Till now he has gone through 8 years. I know there are lots of kids in China who learn piano nowadays. There’s one statistic which says there are 50 million Chinese kids learning piano. Every parent may have different goals. But there are only two people who stand out in China so far, one is Lang Lang and one is Yun Di Lee. (I mentioned their story in my previous blog ).
When I first started to lead my son to piano learning it was with the thought that he could enjoy music and have music as one of his oldest friends in his lifetime. Maybe when he is in his early twenties, he could be living in another city or even another country far away from us. I hope whenever he needs a friend, he can not only reach his friends or us parents but also reach out to two other lifetime friends, who are always there for him: one is music and the other is books.
Of course, that was my thought. John is becoming more and more independent thinking as a teen now, and I know one day he will be both independent in life and thought.
One day, 2 years ago, although John had won lots of awards from all kinds of competitions in Vancouver, he seemed to hate practicing piano and not seem to enjoy the piano anymore.
In the following days and months, one of the causes of tension between my son and myself was his piano practice. Many parents give up the battle after trying the hard negation and the frustrating war with their kids. I haven’t. I am not a person who gives up something easily. I hope John is not that type of kid as well.
On that day, I decided for myself. I would start to learn the piano. I hoped after I practiced piano every day, he would find the beauty of the sound from the instrument.
In my life, my son has changed me in lots of ways. I used to be a woman who hadn’t thought I could have gone this far in my life. Living in another country by myself for 3.5+ years when my son was only 4.5 years old; when looking back on the 8+ years I have stayed in Vancouver, I joke with myself that I am a warrior. After going through lots of things, I realized that people have lots and lots of potential, but not everyone discovers their potential. I did find several of my potentials due to several reasons, including my son.
Before challenging myself to piano, I overcame lots of the barriers that were laid in front of me, such as, I adjusted myself to the cultural difference in another country; I tried every chance to practice my English language; I dealt with all the frustrations of being in another country – luckily I have had two supporters, one is God and one is my mentor since 2012; I challenged myself to go to the MBA class and achieved lots of high GPA in the second part; I started over my career from entry-level; I started my blog in 2013 in my second language, now I am writing my 79th blog;, I did not even write any blog in my mother language-Chinese; I challenged myself to several other things which I had been fear of, one was swimming and one was public speaking in English (blog to how many fears have you conquered ); I know there will be more on the way;
Then came the time for me to conquer something, which seemed impossible – to learn piano from zero.
I don’t think I am a smart person, or talented at music. When I was a child, I used to like singing. I always liked to perform singing until one day I was told I couldn’t sing well because I often went off the pitch.
However, to prove music is beautiful to my son, I decided to pick it up last year in 2018. Luckily, my friend Susana introduced a piano class from Shang Xue Tang Learning Center. The class is designed for adults and the schedule and pace work pretty well with my busy life. Therefore, my piano journey officially started in September 2018.
I have learned lots of lessons from my piano journey in the past 11 months. Now I like to refer to the phrase “transferrable skills” to share my learnings. When I did interview practicing in Vancouver to get a job, I was very bad at interviewing in the beginning. As I had had only one job at Cisco, China after graduating from university. Obviously, I didn’t need to practice my interview skills until I arrived in Vancouver. The recruiters reminded me to see myself as having lots of transferable skills, which means lots of skills which can be transferred from one to another. I will use the term “transferrable learning and knowledge” from piano learning, which means that knowledge and learning can be shared between lots of fields across life.
Here is my learning:
1. Comfort zone
It’s a repeated feeling to leave the comfort zone now and then. There’s often a new type of chord which appears after I just get used to one chord. The difficult part of learning piano is to coordinate the left hand with the right hand. There are so many types of chords for the left hand. When people play, they do not have time to look for the keys on the piano at all. The only thing you can do is to practice hundreds of times, then it becomes your habit; it applies to the chords especially, as you just don’t have time to think about which note your finger needs to land on.
2. You are what you repeat
In my previous blog about habits . I mentioned, “You are what you repeat”; after several months, I clearly understood that I could not play well if I only practiced 20 times. However, I found I could do better after I practiced 50 or 80 times or more. According to the instructor, a piece needs to be practiced several hundred or even thousands of times before a performance for pianists. At the beginning of the new piece, I may feel frustrated because I always make too many mistakes. I sometimes even feel I cannot pass that barrier as it seems very difficult for my level; but if I don’t give up practicing, my music is only going to get better not get worse.
3. Don’t say no to a good habit formation
After practicing the piano, I find I can relax during my practice; I temporary can forget everything else but the piano in front of me. All people will feel stressed in their lives. I have found the more channels you can have to release the stress, the better. I feel I have lots of ways to deal with stress; now I have one more. I have made a good decision to build this new habit.
Just like the book I recently finished reading “the one thing”. I have to be focussed when practicing piano. Every time I get distracted I make mistakes, guaranteed. As I mentioned in my last blog, people are proud of multitasking. Multi-Taskers just simply divide their focus on different things. In the end, nothing can be from the best effort as the attention was not on one thing but on several at the same time;
5. Life is a never-stop train
People get on the train and get off the train like passengers. I started from the entry-level of a piano group class, then went to the medium level and now I am at a high level. There are 6 more ahead of me. There are people who drop out of each class; although, the instructor, Jane, has made it fairly easy for people to follow. But it depends on how many minutes a student practices every day and how committed you want to learn well; in the beginning, I only practiced 20 mins. But not all people can commit to 20 minutes to piano learning. It’s all about how seriously you want to learn, not the environment or the class quality.
I don’t think my environment is very supportive of my piano learning. One day when I was practicing the piano after dinner, my husband asked me “Why do you practice piano every day? Aren’t you too busy? Could you play when we are not home? It’s quite noisy…” It’s quite discouraging to have my husband not appreciating or enjoying the music with me. However, it’s those strikes which have made me a stronger person. When I was planning for my MBA, my colleague said I could not graduate; when I applied for the marketing job, lots of recruiters said it would be easier for me if I considered an office clerk job as my English is not native and I have an accent. When I do my piano practicing, my husband does not enjoy it and does not show his support to me; but so what? Do I live my life for others or myself? And those discouragements help me to grow stronger. I am very proud that I did not get defeated because of those.
7. Step in other’s shoes
Sometimes it’s easy to point the fingers at someone else unless you can put yourself in other’s shoes and experience it; after practicing piano, I appreciate more the hard work my son did on piano in the years back and his talent and strength in music; I never think I can go to any competition as he did and get awards. I appreciate my son’s piano even more as his pieces are quite advanced as he is preparing for RCM Grade 10 now; lots of his play is just wonderful music to my ears.
8. Hard work + a bit of luck + mental strength
In addition to the hard work, a student has to put into a piano or anything else they want to do well, stage performance is different from practice. For instance, in the Olympic games or in a piano competition; although there are times the competitors practice perfectly before the event, if a 5% non-perfect performance happens during the actual event, the result will be not as good as one expected. The perfect score formula is hard work + a bit of luck + mental strength.
Happy lifetime learning and exploring!