January 04, 2007

Allegro

I don't like competitions, and my kids, for the most part, avoid them. But I agreed with With-a-Why's piano teacher that playing the piano in front of judges might be a good experience for a child so shy. He would like getting a ribbon, and a competition would give him a deadline for learning some new songs. Besides, it's hard to say no to his teacher, who is one of the few adults that my painfully shy child will talk to.

The competition wouldn't take much time. Each kid gets a time slot, and he just has to show up, play his two songs in front of the judges, and then leave. The teacher gives him the judges' feedback and the ribbon at his next lesson, so the competitive aspect is low-key. Because it wasn't a recital, I figured there was no reason for With-a-Why to dress up, so we didn't even have to go through the usual last-minute crisis of wondering if his dress pants still fit him.

We ended up with a late-day time slot on the day of the piano competition. The judges were running behind, and the usually empty studio was filled with kids and parents. I was surprised at how dressed up the kids were. With-a-Why, with his black band shirt, black hoodie, and long hair hanging in his eyes, looked out-of-place amongst cleancut boys in crisp dress shirts and girls in fancy dresses. He was by far the shyest kid in the room, looking only at the floor as we waited for his turn. His dark, uncombed hair hid most of his face.

I admit I felt a pang of parental guilt. Should I have made him dress up? Or at least suggested that option to him? Maybe I should have combed his hair. Or made sure his shirt was clean. How come I never even think of these things?

Then I came to my senses. The judges were supposed to be paying attention to the music, not the clothing. I can't think that a dress shirt and tie would help a kid play the piano any better.

Through the glass wall, we could hear each kid play the piano when it was his turn. Some of the parents seemed nervous about the competition, and as I listened, I could hear why. I know almost nothing about music but even I know you aren't supposed to stop awkwardly in the middle of a song. Most of the songs the kids played seemed pretty simple, their fingers picking out some kind of melody, one note at a time. What's nice is that all the parents were quick to say supportive things to each child, no matter how badly he had played. Many of the kids gave big smiles and bows after their performances, and they seemed to be enjoying the whole thing, and I figured that was the most important thing.

When it was With-a-Why's turn, he walked in without even looking at the judges. Because I was shy myself at that age, I knew just how terrifying this next part would be. He said the name of his piece without looking up. The judges had to lean forward to hear his words. He answered a question or two – his name, his age, that sort of thing – and then walked over to the piano without even shaking the hair out of his face. Other parents gave me sympathetic looks. I breathed a sigh of relief. The difficult part was over.

Next came the easy part. With-a-Why sat down at the piano. As soon as his hands touched the keys, his entire posture changed. He seemed to forget the judges, whom he'd never looked at anyhow, or the parents staring through the glass wall. Gone was the shy child with the slouch. He was completely poised and confident as his hands moved rapidly across the keys. His fingers seemed to fly. As the music – a fast, complicated jazz piece – filled the room, the other parents looked over at me with surprise.

Yeah, he is shy and his mother doesn't know enough to make him dress up, but this kid can really play the piano.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like he knows where and with what he is comfortable. You should be very proud. As should he.

Mieke said...

Rock on With a Why! What a great moment.

Hilaire said...

Oh gosh - I love this story. Good for him!

ppb said...

how awesome! Does he feel good about it?

jo(e) said...

PPB: Well, it's hard to tell because he's not a big talker. But it seems like it was a good experience for him. I think he mainly is willing to go to competitions to please his piano teacher, whom he really likes.

His love of music certainly has been a way to help him with his shyness. For him to walk into a room and actually talk to an adult he had never met before -- that is a big accomplishment.

As far as how well he plays the piano -- I don't think he cares whether or not anyone is listening. He just likes to play.

Anonymous said...

Good for With-a-Why! And I think his mother knows what really important, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Hooray With-a-Why!!!! That is a big accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

this makes me so happy. props to the pianist and his mother!

The Vicar of Hogsmeade said...

who needs words when you have music?

MonkeyPants said...

That was a fabulous story. Go, With-a-Why!

Whether he gets over his shyness or not, what a wonderful boost for him and for you. Jazz is hard, and that kid must have an amazing ability.

Anonymous said...

Heck, I just got tears in my eyes! I am so proud of him! AND of you, Mom. You have such great, and talented, kids.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations both to you and With a Why. Good for you for letting him be himself and good for him for not letting the judges intimidate him. Oh the talent you and your kids have.

Chip said...

Great post! This is an example I think of how competition is way overrated in our society. You don't get the best most creative results through competition, but through love: I don't think he cares whether or not anyone is listening. He just likes to play.

YourFireAnt said...

Jo(e), this piece was so good I couldn't talk for half an hour after reading it.

FA

RageyOne said...

"but this kid can really play the piano."

That statement right there ^^ is all that matters. He played the piano and it sounds like he did a GREAT job!

cieux autres said...

Hey jo(e),

I don't know if W-a-W remembers me, but tell him congratulations from me. I hope he did enjoy the experience.

CA

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I had a debater last year who refused to conform to the dress-up norms -- partially because he couldn't really afford to and partially because he thought it was silly. I always loved seeing the look on the judges and competition's faces when he'd stand up and give excellent arguments in his casual clothes.

YEA for both of you...

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. It is a great reminder that the little things everyone gets so worried about actually aren't that important. Way to go, With-A-Why! Good for you, too, jo(e)! I probably would have ran to the nearest clothing store to try and make it back with "appropriate" clothes before he played, because I am neurotic like that (unfortunately). I WISH I wasn't...hopefully one day I can play it cool like you. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah, that's fantastic! Hooray for W-a-W!

Anonymous said...

I love this story, jo(e). It's great how your common sense about clothing and innocence of the "rules" forced all these other parents to stop and think about the whole fancywear thing. And, it sounds like With-a-Why really reminded everyone of the true reason for the occasion: the music, of course. Congratulations to both of you!

Anonymous said...

That reminds me of...well...me. I had ridiculously frizzy hair, and my mom wasn't on the PTA and we didn't live in a mansion like the rest of the kids...but THIS kid could really sing. And NO ONE could take it away from me :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...my link didn't work :(

here's the link though...I would hate for people to think I just had bad self esteem...the truth is I really had bad hair!!

http://girlgonegreat.blogspot.com/2006/01/day-in-life15.html

jo(e) said...

Girl, I love that photo of you.

Anonymous said...

KUDOS

For not falling into the dress up and make you sound better trap. Miranda never dressed up and she could play.

Music is the thing not the attire.

Bravo to you and With a why!

Anonymous said...

woo hoo.
your with-a-why sounds like my J11.
in the "sweet boy who loves to play the piano" department. my J11 would probably talk the hind leg off the judges. but he would wear his old faded too-short fave jeans.

mindSpin said...

I learned to play the piano at a music academy on Okinawa. I was six - a blond, oversized, over-aged late starter plunking my way through piano recitals alongside diminutive four- and five-year-old Okinawan children playing the likes of "Flight of the Bumblebee."

I'm most proud of With-A-Why - those piano recitals terrified me. (Maybe they wouldn't have been half so scary if I hadn't had to wear a velvet jumper, white tights, and patent shoes ;->.)

Anonymous said...

You do know how to raise children who are confident about what they love. Good for with-a-why!

Manorama said...

Haha. When I read the first line of your post I laughed, because I remembered the race your family put together over the summer and all the competitive e-mails and comments. :)

Marie said...

This post made me smile, really smile at the computer. Thank you, once again. Beautiful. Hurrah for you and WaW.

Anonymous said...

Sweet. It's ok to be shy. He'll do just fine anyway.

KathyR said...

Woo hoo!

That's all. This post just made me want to go "Woo hoo!"

Anonymous said...

This was a fantastic post. I'm so proud of WaW. I've taught super-shy kids, too, and it's amazing how they can communicate with an instrument when they can't do so with their words.

Let me add my voice to those who are saying the clothes are no big deal--especially for boys. When I had my big studio of students, I found that my female students usually loved to dress up and welcomed any excuse to do so.

But most of my little kazoo guys just didn't own dress clothes, and I wasn't about to insist that their parents spend more money on outfits that would probably only fit for three months anyhow and be outgrown by the next performance. (Lessons and instruments are expensive enough already without yet another expense.) I told them to just do the best they could with what they already owned. Some of them showed up in jeans, and others clearly relished the chance to look "grown up" in their first dress shirt, or tie, or dress shoes. (And frankly, I think it's the teacher's job to remind students of what to wear instead of assuming that they'll figure it out or that their parents will automatically know what "music dress code" ought to be.)

But I was always more interested not in how they looked but by how they acted and sounded. Sounds like WaW's judges were the same way.

Was this a MTNA event? I love those--every kid gets comments and a ribbon or certificate. I figure that ANY kid who has the guts to get up and perform in public is already "above average." :) BRAVO to WaW.

jo(e) said...

Terminal Degree: The event was organized by this group.

Every kid gets some kind of ribbon and some feedback from the judges. The judges are really nice -- and very patient with shyness.

My shy kids have had such wonderful experiences with music lessons. With-a-Why will go right to the piano the minute he gets home from school, often before he even takes off his coat, and I can usually tell from the kind of music he plays what kind of day he has had. His music teacher calls him her "jazz boy" because he especially likes to play jazz.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I never headed straight for my instrument as a kid. I am very, very impressed. I want to hear WaW play some day! :)

Anonymous said...

Good for him and for you, like my friend cloudscome said, you know what's really important, and it's not the clothing that matters. You should try to record him (and also your other kids) playing and post it on the blog (like you once posted a link to a video of them skating). I have no idea how to do that, but I bet your sons would know.

Wine said...

I was speechless after reading it, I collected by thoughts and read it again. Very nice piece.