We have the builders in. They arrive at 8 am in the morning when our children are in full swing with their music practice. This morning our decorator commented on how well our 12 year old plays and proceeded to tell me about his own, traumatic, encounter with a piano teacher, decades ago.

About 50 years ago his school decided to offer piano lessons. He loved music, even as a young boy, and showed up for the lunchtime meeting that had been called by the new piano teacher. He was the only boy to show in a turn out of eager girls. The teacher asked everyone to sing some scales. When his turn came she told him that ‘he had no musical ability whatsoever. Please forget about ever playing the piano and return to your class room…’  He was so mortified that he didn’t even tell his parents that he had tried out for the piano lessons he wanted so badly. Instead he took to heart the advice of one (bad!!) teacher and gave up on the idea of piano lessons altogether. He dearly loves music even today, he listens to music, but hearing our sons play triggers this memory.

A story like this drives me mad actually! As an art teacher I NEVER say to people: “You can’t paint, forget about this!” For me everyone can find great joy in painting – or music. (I am not a music teacher but I can play four musical instruments). It is about a process of engaging with something that feeds our soul and fills us with joy. In that encounter learning always occurs. Even I will admit that not everyone is destined to be a concert pianist, or professional painter – but we can bring joy and beauty into our lives in every way that speaks to us.

I now find myself toying with a little brainwave: what if I book our children’s piano teacher to come and give this man a lesson, on our piano? Our teacher is calm and patient and encouraging (he specialises in teaching young children) – wouldn’t that be a wonderful gift to heal an old wound?!

It is never too late to paint or to play the piano. It is perfectly possible for this man to achieve a level of playing that gives him joy. There is a large selection of beautiful piano music for beginners out there (I know, because I see my children moving through these pieces, I sometimes play them myself, just for fun!) and thank goodness (and thank composers) for that.

Aptly he piece my son was playing this morning  is ‘First Loss’  by Robert Schumann

Our words and pronouncements can hurt others for life.  Thankfully music tuition for children has moved on since this incident happened.

Imelda Almqvist