I recently received an e-mail from the Vail Voice editorial staff forwarding a letter from a gentleman in our community who took issue with a certain point I made in one of my articles. He was an owner of a business for which he didn’t specify, and from which standpoint expressed concern for my attitude towards inquirers without pianos. Since the editorial staff expressed intent to not publish his letter, I will accordingly keep him anonymous here. However, I did find his point to be well taken and well-intentioned, and thus I do want to extend my thanks to that individual, as I feel his point does need to be taken seriously. The point was regarding my opinion that dealing with those without pianos is a waste of time. In short, he suggested I not be so dismissive of those of such status.

Piano ownership is a most basic litmus test regarding the sincerity of intent to commit to lessons.  If the inquiring party doesn’t own one at this time, either there is intent to acquire one, or there isn’t. If there is intent to get a piano, I would be more than happy to discuss how to acquire one, including all the known options and ramifications, including, of course, the cost, as well as where to get one, and the options of getting a new or used one. On the other hand, it is those with no intention of getting a piano, but yet are out looking for a teacher, that I find dealing with to be a waste of time. This type is either under the notion they can somehow learn to play without practice, or they’re simply clueless of the fact the learning of a musical instrument even requires daily practice. Suffice it to say, if you are to develop any playing skills on a musical instrument, you will have to practice. If your response at this moment is “Oh, you mean I’ll have to practice?” you likely are not ready to start lessons just yet. If you are just finding that out, you will need some time to come to terms with that prerequisite; you likely won’t be able to accept a sizeable prerequisite instantly.

It may seem to some that my rhetoric is a bit harsh or maybe a bit elitist. My intent is certainly not to frighten off anybody, but rather to inform prospective clients as to what they would be getting into, so that there are no nasty surprises once they do make the commitment to take lessons. I am just being realistic. I am simply putting everything on the table for you to sort out and evaluate, to give you the opportunity to resolve potential conflicts before you make the actual commitment to lessons. By being upfront about what music lessons entail, I enable the prospective student to get the most out of what I have to offer as a teacher.

Keep in mind you don’t have to be exceptionally “talented” to qualify for lessons with this teacher. Effort and perseverance are far more important than talent. If any member of the involved party is not scrupulous with me regarding some issue or conflict that may arise, it will not matter what great talent the student may have; so, too, if the student won’t stick with the lessons for any length of time. Ask any “gifted” young musician or prodigy how they got where they are, and they’ll likely tell you it’s lots of hard work and perseverance! Much of what the public regards as “talent” is really effort and perseverance. What it almost always comes down to is they are willing to do more, usually much more, than the average student.

Remember, winners are willing to do what losers are not willing to do. Even if you don’t have the fortitude that kind of individual may have, you can still learn some very meaningful music-making skills by committing a half-hour a day to practice, provided it is quality, thought-driven practice. And in that vein, I encourage the prospective student to find their purpose (as in Grand Canyon University TV ads) for learning to play the piano. That purpose can be anything from simply playing for one’s own enjoyment, to community functions, to church, on up to becoming a concert pianist. If you have a purpose, you will likely value the program much more.



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