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Thread: What would you do in my situation

  1. #1
    Senior Member muxamed's Avatar
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    Default What would you do in my situation

    Hi

    My son is 11 years old and has played piano for almost three years. He is recognized as a great talent, has appeared on a couple of concerts, tv, radio, newspapers. He has a teacher who he meets every week and he is even takes lessons from a master concert pianist once a month.

    We (his parents) have done everything that we possibly can to make it possible for him to learn and develop as a musician. BUT the problem is that he doesn't seem to be really interested in playing at all. He seems to be playing to please us (his parents) and all people who have expectations.

    He doesn't like to practice daily and doesn't do it until we remind him. He almost never takes initiative. It is very hard for us to know what to do. We don't want to force him to play but at the same time we are afraid that he could miss the chance of his life if we don't. He is hugely talanted but very uninterested. I am also afraid that he cannot develop if he doesn't enjoy playing. What would you do in our place?

    Thanks for your answers!
    muxamed
    Last edited by muxamed; Sep-23-2012 at 17:47.

  2. #2
    Junior Member Humidor's Avatar
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    Based on your post I would say that there's only one really important factor here, and only one thing that will really determine where he goes with the instrument. Is he or is he not going to become personally interested in playing? Well the rather harsh truth is that if he doesn't he has little to no real possibility of a future as a professional pianist. I would actually say that in becoming a professional pianist talent is a secondary requirement behind real passion. (which is inherently synonymous with tremendous hard work and dedication) What you absolutely do not want is to crush the possibility of his personal interest developing with excessive forced practice. This is not to say that you should completely free him of his responsibility to practice and wait because unfortunately odds are that he would stop working hard enough for the 5 lessons a month to be worth the time and money.

    What I would do in your position is continue his current regiment until he turned about 14 or 15, and then completely cut him loose. That way his technique will have developed to the point where he can pick piano back up at any time without the fear of being to far behind, but can experience other things with a more mature perspective and decide if the piano is where his true passion lies. Be careful to never push to hard however. There have been countless cases of flash in the pan prodigies who were never heard from again, and being overworked without a personal interest is the primary culprit.
    Last edited by Humidor; Sep-23-2012 at 18:27.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Is he a 'mature' eleven? If you you sit down with him, discuss the alternatives, and ask him to decide whether or not he is willing to 'bust butt' until his 14th birthday... can you (the parents) live with his decision?
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member Ravndal's Avatar
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    I would listen to "Humidor". Wise post.
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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    It sounds like your son has more a knack (a facility) than a consuming passion. Unless you and the boy's teachers drastically scale back both voiced expectations of him as well as the performances, I think the young man's musical adventure as a potential professional or ardent amateur may already be over.

    Statistically, if he did not start between the ages of two to four years old, he will never become a (classical) "concert pianist." (That does not rule out 'professional' at some other level.) No matter how 'talented' he is that very early start 'requirement' has to do with music being learned and active parallel with the development of spoken language. Having started at eleven, he is well past having music as 'complete fundamental reflex' as his spoken language.

    I started at six, 'precocious' perhaps but not a prodigy, and continued through conservatory + and became a professional - a decent working professional classical pianist. At no point did I ever need to be told to practice: I just did, and well over the half an hour per diem for a beginning youngster - In my earliest years I had to be told it was also important to go out of doors and run around.

    It is entirely possible he is just “not into music.” Many people have a ready knack which appears as a real talent but they have no true interest in the medium for which they happen to have a ready facility.

    I recommend you lay down these laws to both the student and the teachers:
    … Your son will not be allowed to perform other than live, and then not as solo or featured player, but as merely one of a number of young student players performing on a mixed student recital. // It should be forbidden that he perform in any venue which is aired or broadcast.
    [That should be the 'all' of performing for this one, for a good several years to come.]
    … And then tell him he is not at all required to continue lessons while ensuring him they will be provided if he wishes to continue. (Insisting that 'you will continue until you are fifteen' is severely counterproductive.)

    Has anyone commented on his stunning 'musicality' or musicianship rather than his technical level or his rapid ‘ascent’ to that level? Or is all the flap over the fact he is eleven, came to it late, and can play at high (relatively) technical level, i.e. so many notes at such and so a tempo? Is that the real focus of the publicity? If that is the case, all publicity to date, future career-wise, is negative.

    Children will follow through to please, even doing things they do not care for at all: they will continue to do something 'they are good at' merely for the attention it brings, yet without having a scintilla of real interest or passion in what they are doing.

    Proof will come by what your child does when there are no expectations, no required performances, and a complete absence of any kind of publicity around and about him -- then you will see if he wishes to continue by what time he puts in to playing and practice on his own.

    Becoming a real professional artist is to become a servant: it is not ‘about you.’ It is not at all about the attention on the performer or creator: it is a selfless 'anti-stardom' career all about serving the craft. If your child is not driven enough on his own in the musical arena, no amount of exterior force will be of any avail. Anyone I know who became professional really never had to be 'told to practice.' They did not require an imposed established work schedule.... Those bitten deeply enough that 'the bug' never left their system 'just do it.' without urging… and I am talking about people age two, four, six, eight, etc. Your child is already eleven.

    Let the kid be a kid.

    P.s. the publicity gained from the boy performing is often more a real practical benefit for his teachers.... I would be very cynical about the real reasons for trotting this boy into the eyes and ears of the media. There are other ways to fund his lessons if that is part of the reason to have accepted those engagements - the better routes toward funding are scholarships and (worthwhile) competition prizes.
    Last edited by PetrB; Sep-23-2012 at 22:08.

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    Senior Member Turangalîla's Avatar
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    When I was about five to thirteen I loved the piano, but I did not take any initiative to practice. The reason that I was successful was because I was made to practice—it was the performing part that I loved. And when I turned thirteen, I got into a National competition and came second (and I never even dreamed of even making it into the competition in the first place—I was incredibly fortunate). I was made to work very hard leading up to the competition, and the rewards were huge. Ever since then I have never been asked to practice and have fallen in love with my instrument on every level imaginable. I am now planning to become a pianist for my career. Your son seems very talented and is perhaps in a similar position. If I were you, I would make him continue playing until he is fifteen, at least. By then his musicality, if he possesses it, should have proliferated, and if he was made for the instument, he will continue with it. Put him in lots of competitions (I have never regretted a single one, even the unsuccessful ones) and encourage him to give solo recitals, but do not "over-advertise" him or sell him too early. I am certainly not suggesting that you are doing so, I am just warning you. If you "over-advertise" him, he may feel like he is being used—this sort of a feeling may lead to him quitting as soon as you let him.

    And is he listening to lots of recordings and watching lots of great pianists? If not, get him on it. It was an amazing inspiration for me when the world of recordings and YouTube was first revealed to me.
    "In my entire career, I sang the way I wanted to six times. The rest of the time I just did the best I could."
    – Beverly Sills

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  9. #7
    Senior Member muxamed's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot for your inspiring responses!

    @Humidor, your answer lies very close to our own reasoning. We don't want to "force" him into this but we would also like to give him prerequisitions so he can develop musically. Thank you.

    @PetrB. Thanks a lot. We are fully aware that he started to play a little late (he was 8 years old though, not 11). Our goal is not to "make" him a concert pianist. What we want is to give him a good musical education so he can choose whatever he want to do with his talent when he is old enough to do so. Yes, he has received much apraise for his musicality and feeling, more than his technique. He is very good at playing "simpler" compositions by ear, that is, without looking at the score.

    @CarterJohnsonPiano. Thanks a lot. I feel that we maybe advertised him a bit too much in the beginning of this year and it was mostly his teacher's benefit. She took every opportunity to do so. Later on I and the boy's new teacher insisted her to stop. The publicity resulted in a scholarship.
    Last edited by muxamed; Sep-24-2012 at 07:02.

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    Junior Member Nariette's Avatar
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    I'd say, take a break. Stop the lessons and/or concerts for a few months, and let him decide. I did that myself, and missed playing the piano. Instead of playing what people want me to play, I choose my own pieces and the one who tutors me(my mother,she is a qualified piano teacher), takes peace in that. The joy is not to play music well, but to have fun in doing so.

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    Member HoraeObscura's Avatar
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    Buy a midi controller keyboard and a laptop with a Digital Audio Workstation with some synths and let him be creative the way he wants to...

    And yes maybe let him take a break

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    Quote Originally Posted by muxamed View Post
    Hi

    My son is 11 years old and has played piano for almost three years. He is recognized as a great talent, has appeared on a couple of concerts, tv, radio, newspapers. He has a teacher who he meets every week and he is even takes lessons from a master concert pianist once a month.

    We (his parents) have done everything that we possibly can to make it possible for him to learn and develop as a musician. BUT the problem is that he doesn't seem to be really interested in playing at all. He seems to be playing to please us (his parents) and all people who have expectations.

    He doesn't like to practice daily and doesn't do it until we remind him. He almost never takes initiative. It is very hard for us to know what to do. We don't want to force him to play but at the same time we are afraid that he could miss the chance of his life if we don't. He is hugely talanted but very uninterested. I am also afraid that he cannot develop if he doesn't enjoy playing. What would you do in our place?

    Thanks for your answers!
    muxamed
    Sometimes people are really good at things that they are not interested in. Many musicians have to sacrifice their childhood to practice to be good enough. Do you want to do this to someone who isn't very interested? If you force him to play the piano there is a danger that he may end up hating it.

    Something I know is that people don't get less good at playing instruments by getting older, so he could always take up the piano seriously later if he wanted to, or he could have lots of pleasure playing it very well as an amateur and working in a job that interests him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by muxamed View Post
    We (his parents) have done everything that we possibly can to make it possible for him to learn and develop as a musician. BUT the problem is that he doesn't seem to be really interested in playing at all. He seems to be playing to please us (his parents) and all people who have expectations.
    Nice kid....seems like he's got his priorities centred on adult affection through his talent.

    I wonder if he sees piano playing as hard work, or an extracurricular subject, or perhaps, just depriving him of play and fun, which most 11 year olds like.

    Perhaps the danger of trying too hard as parents, is that your extra efforts to try to encourage him to play piano, will entail that he needs less motivation to try, and therefore risk becoming disinterested.

    But he is only 11yrs old. Come boy! There's a good boy! Have a treat Classical conditioning works very well, if the rewards for practice, are pleasureable (maybe fun time doing normal 11 year old stuff) and balanced with a higher motivational activity afterwards. I remember when I played piano, the hours of boredom just wilting at the keyboard trying to get some metaphysical rhythm for angels to dance to whilst all my mates were busy chasing girls or being chased by the police. Boy did I miss out. Boy do I hate piano lol.

    Anyway, I guess you're asking since you're picking up the parental conundrum of seeing your child's potential being realised or binned. Unless he's a championship golf player, or excelling in Quantum Mechanics, he ain't got no choice. Stick with piano until he can prove he can do something else

    Of course, you'll keep reflecting on the situation, and assess it as his maturity increases; then when he says he doesn't want to study piano, you buy him a flute and give him lessons in the instrument he's always wanted

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