My father, a pianist and organist, gave my older sister her first piano lesson when she was seven. I was four and begged to learn the piano, too. Finally, my father gave me my first lesson when I turned five.
By age eight I had lost interest, but my parents insisted that I continue with my lessons. Maybe I would have been more interested if my father had allowed me to learn popular songs instead of classical pieces. It may not have mattered, because I was a terrible piano student.
During summer months when I was supposed to be practicing, I would disappear with other neighborhood children, playing in the woods. During the school year, I would beg off by claiming I had tons of homework, or a headache or stomach ache. Although it was my father who gave me lessons, it was my mother who dealt with my refusal to practice. We had many altercations about it.
There were times when my father was so angry at me for not knowing the piece I was supposed to have practiced, that he sat next to me on the piano bench with a paddle, making me practice for hours until I learned the music. At times, I got a good swat.
Twice we held recitals in our home. My father played the piano and organ. My sister and I played the piano. My father had found a piano piece for six hands which my mother played along with my sister and me.
I had to practice the music for my performance for months and months so I wouldn’t embarrass myself or my family. For one recital I played the “Minuet in G,” which I had to learn by heart. In order not to go crazy, rehearsing the same piece over and over, I’d let my mind wander elsewhere. Then suddenly, I couldn’t remember where I was in the music.
I begged to be able to take art lessons or anything else. Finally when I was in fifth grade, my parents signed me up for ballet, but I still had to play the piano. I was in that awkward preteen stage, so after two years I lost interest in dancing, too.
When I was around twelve, my mother took a part-time job at a department store. She worked until 9 pm two week nights. My sister was in high school and involved in afterschool activities, so she usually arrived home long after I did. When my sister arrived home, and later my parents, they would each ask if I had practiced. I don’t understand why they believed me when I said that I had. They couldn’t get me to practice when they were there. Why would I do it when no one else was home?
My sister eventually took organ lessons from the high school’s music teacher and later from a church organist. My parents never suggested I take lessons from anyone but my father. They may have been embarrassed that I played so poorly or perhaps they knew it would be a waste of money. So I took piano lessons one week and organ lessons the alternate week from my father.
Although I was basically a good kid, I was somewhat rebellious, more passively than overtly. Taking lessons from him was probably not a good idea. I ended up resenting my father for forcing me to take lessons and my mother for forcing me to practice when I had little interest in music. I ended up disliking my parents, my father in particular, for many years.
One day in the middle of my senior year of high school, during an organ lesson that was going badly, my father threw up his hands, and yelled, “I give up.”
It was one of the happiest days of my life. My music lessons ended that day.
To this day, I don’t play an instrument. I don’t mind listening to a piano, but I detest organ music.
(©2008, C.J. Peiffer)