If you’re not feeling quite yourself today you aren’t alone. Because today is the the most depressing day of the year (actually, there’s some disagreement about the actual date but that’s another post for another blog). Why is today the most depressing day of the year? According to a very “scientific formula” that takes account of weather conditions, debt, distance from Christmas… and just the fact that it’s Monday… January 20th is a doozie of a day.
Depressing Details Got You Down?
I haven’t ever shared this story as it’s quite a personal one. But I’m reminded of it every time I hear a piano teacher refuse to take on a student because they only have a digital piano, or get frustrated and consider dropping a child who makes slow progress, or throw their hands up in frustration when a soccer game disrupts practice… or just generally get bogged down in the annoyances associated with our job. People annoy us. People don’t always do what we want them to do. Blue Monday or not, it’s really easy to commiserate on any day.
But because of the story I’m about to share with you I personally never lose sight of what it means to be a piano teacher. And so those little annoyances in my job-life stay just that… little.
I’m hoping it affects you in a similar way.
What it Means to be a Piano Teacher
Victor was my very first piano student. He was not an easy first piano student. He was sweet, very shy, and he tried really hard. His two outgoing sisters quickly breezed past him in his method book in a matter of months. I really flexed my teaching muscles with Victor; tried everything I could think of to make it click for him. He sort of practiced and he sort of progressed. He was not all that interested, but was too sweet to say so.
Flash forward 8 years and Victor was still my student. We had tossed his method books to the side and he was afire with a love for composing. We came up with great titles like “Chicago Cry” that were oh so cool. Other kids in the studio played his pieces at recitals (to his blushing delight). He and I composed reams of really cool sounding pop and punk music. His reading skills were still shaky and his technique was not stellar. But he loved piano.
Along the way, shy Victor became confident. When he took off to a private high school he landed roles in their musicals playing the outlandish characters. Whenever I ran into his Mom she would comment on how much his piano lessons had affected him. How I had affected him.
I was in Copehagen when I read the news on Facebook that Victor had passed away in a car crash just 2 weeks after high school graduation. He had fallen asleep at the wheel. Being so far away, I didn’t have immediate contact with his family, but when I returned home those same words came from his tearful mom: what a large part I had played in his life, how his piano lessons had made such an impact. I visited a few months ago, nearly 3 years after his passing, and Chicago Cry was open on their piano.
Now does it matter if Victor didn’t have an ideal acoustic piano at home? If he spent all of his lesson time composing instead playing Bach? If he didn’t always practice – sometimes for weeks? If his parents placed equal importance on basketball?
Not now. What does matter was that joyful music-making was a large part of his too-short life. And because of this, I will be forever mindful of what it truly means to teach piano.