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Keep your children busy and you will have talented, bright, happy children we are told. The choices are vast: hockey, ballet, ringette, voice, soccer and of course the good old stand bye piano lessons.

This summer I plan to see the entertaining musical, Two Pianos, Four Hands, at the Huron County Playhouse Theatre. It is a must for every parent who is contemplating introducing their childhood prodigy to the piano.

One does not merely play the piano:, it can be an expensive outlay of cash for a large music box that needs tuning and of course practice and lessons.

I was foolish enough to purchase a baby grand for my ďconcert tourĒ bound children. It stands to reason that the bigger, the more expensive the instrument than the more accomplished & dedicated the musician. Wrong.

The quest for the music teacher to nurture our childrenís talents was very interesting. There were five designated hitters over the years to encourage our children to practice and perform at recitals.

One instructor who was a Juillard graduate had her tiny six year old prodgies practice up to five hours a day. Crying didnít alleviate their daily misery; desire to have fun-in-the-sun with friends skipping rope or playing baseball was not in the schedule.

Once a year, just before Christmas, the parents would all assemble in the teacherís living room to hear the tinkle of the keys. Some of the kids were so small that their mothers had to lift them up on the piano bench.The moms would sit with the sheet music on their laps checking for any miscues that befell their children.

One had to be prepared for the final exams and of course practice for the Kiwanis Festival. The festival was where the parents and teachers could show off their kids accomplishments. Never mind that you had to hear the same piece played over and over again. After all of the children had to showcase their talents or lack of to the assembled audience of parents and family.

Public examination and dissection takes place at the end of the recital on all of the merits and mistakes that had occurred. The hall was hushed awaiting the final word from the ultimate judge, the adjudicator, who had to evaluate the minuets, sonatas and fugues.

I was very proud of my little Sarah, age 11 who placed first. We had to run and tell her teacher of her great accomplishments. The applause was deafening, ď letís look at your mistakesĒ she demanded. After the tears and cries of ďI donít want to play anymore from my daughter we looked for another teacher.

A Jazz and no exams teacher seemed to be a good fit for my son but alas my daughter didnít want to relearn the past four years. We persisted for seven more years with Pat, a wonderful, patient, talented lover of children. She worked, danced and prevailed till both our children had achieved the magical grade eight practical and grade two theory designation.

Think about it all those years of practice gives you one credit towards your Ontario Secondary School Diploma equivalent to a semester of Physical Education.

Fighting, cajoling, car pooling and monthly cheques totalling hundreds of dollars was the price of having our children learning the classics.

Come on, my wife would remind me; how about the love of music that the children have gained. To tell you the truth my children have not touched the piano, not even to dust it off, since their piano exams. In hindsight they really did not want to practice, perform or play classical music.

My wife never had the opportunity to have lessons when she was a youngster and by God she was not going to have her kids neglected. For the vast majority of youngsters playing piano is not fun & games; it is an onerous chore that has been inflicted on them without their consent.

Hell, they are so vulnerable at five years of age. Most of the kidís talents can be summed up as meat and potatoes with a very small minority that can make it talk and they probably never had a lesson. I am presently counselling an eighteen year old young man who was forced to take piano lessons for seven long years. Think about he begged his parents I will be 55 when I receive my grade eight certification.

Let me give you a bit of personal advice regarding developing your childís musical talents. Turn off the T. V, play lots of CDs, classics, jazz, country & western, reggae and pops. An evening out with the London Symphony is an inexpensive introduction to the world of Chopin, Bach or Beethoven.

If you want to laugh a little at the realities of piano lessons take in the play at the playhouse in Grand Bend this summer. The cost of a ticket could save you thousands of dollars heartaches, arguments and tears.

In most cases it is a waste of time and money to try and make your John or Mary a concert star. I will always remember Leonard Rose, the famous concert cellist, affirming that he thanked God every day that his daughter was not a professional musician.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com