I had a real teary moment this weekend as I heard my daughter and her young friend from down the road happily playing duets together on the piano. This was a totally unprompted event and one I know will never forget.
For weeks now I have had many a running battle with my eldest daughter over the need for her to do her piano practice.
Like any child her age she would much rather curl up with her Nintendo DS or watch TV than have to think about hauling herself up to the piano to try and bash her way through the endless pieces of new music which she is given to learn each week.
She has a defeatist nature and without fail we have at lest one session where she screams at me “but I can’t do it – it’s stupid”.
It is only with a lot of gentle (well, gentle at first!) encouragement, hugs, tear- wiping and eventually bribes that we managed to pick our through the difficult bars to finally have a passable end result.
And then it is like the sun coming out from behind a cloud.
My daughter’s little face brightens in a huge radiant smile as she realises she has managed to accomplish the tune which was giving her such a headache just half an hour earlier.
After that she never stops playing the tune over and over again – the battle to get it learned a forgotten blip in our up and down relationship.
But it is only by enduring these turbulent times that I know I will help her to achieve something really special.
We all like music but to be able to play it is second to nothing.
To be able to read music and give your own interpretation to pieces which are sometimes hundreds of years old can really give a lot of pleasure.
Seeing my daughter’s frustration at the keyboard takes me right back to my childhood and the sometimes painful memories of my parents (well, usually this was left up to my poor mother) having to endure the same battle as they urged my brother and I to do our necessary practice.
I distinctly remember vowing that if I ever had children I would never hound them to do their practice.
It always seemed most unfair to be called inside on a lovely summer’s evening to do our practice while our friends were allowed to keep on playing outside without us.
So when my daughter first started playing, I decided that I wouldn’t nag her but rather let her get on with it at her own pace and let her enjoy it.
Either she would take to it or she wouldn’t, I foolishly reckoned.
But when I realised that no amount of gentle encouragement was going to persuade her to take responsibility for her practice, I knew I would have to manage it for her.
A half-hour lesson is not exactly cheap so there really no option but to play the bad cop card.
If I thought for one moment that this was a bad thing for my daughter and she really wasn’t enjoying it I would stop immediately.
But I see the pleasure in her face when she has finally cracked it.
She is delighted and what is even sweeter is she then wants to give performances to everyone of the music she can play. Of course her grannies are delighted by anything she does, but her teacher is the one who is most impressed with her, and that can only be a good thing. .
The fact she is ahead of the peers who started learning at the same time as her is a sure-fire way of making her work even harder. There is nothing like appealing to a child’s competitive edge!
And the fact her little neighbour is not only a great pianist but also quite an accomplished cello player despite being only nine years old will have a good effect on her as well.
Her mother and I have already agreed if they want to play duets together and it makes them practise then they can play together as much as they want!
My child’s tentative steps into the world of music will be further boosted by new work being done in Sheffield following a recent £1.8m Arts Council grant to Sheffield City Council’s Music Services.
The money will be used to create a prestigious music hub – making sure every child has the opportunity to experience a high quality music education.
For more information visit: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/education/information-for-parentscarers/at-school/sheffield-music-service.html