Gal Smiley, The Next Tori Amos

The new city activities guide is out, and that means it’s time to start thinking about fall classes for the kids. I don’t want to be too busy or overbooked, so we are trying to limit each kid to swimming and just one other activity.

The Captain is easy. He wants to do indoor soccer. Done.

Gal Smiley is a lot harder. She wants to do about 20 different things. When we forced her to narrow down the list, she picked skating. We’re happy about the skating, but a little sad that she didn’t pick piano lessons.

She’s bugged us for piano lessons for the past two years. All this time we’ve been waiting for her to turn six, so she’d be eligible for the city-run programs. Then, this summer, we found a teenage girl up the street who was willing to give Gal Smiley lessons over the summer. It has worked out great and we’ve been very happy. Gal Smiley is making fantastic progress. When we tell her it’s practice time, she practically skips over to the piano and wants to play every song again and again. She invites her brother and sister to hear mini-concerts.

So you’d think she loves it, wouldn’t you? And yet, when we asked her about fall activities, the one thing she said was, “I don’t want to take any more piano lessons.”

I swear I do not understand my kids at all.

Anyway, I am not usually one of those parents who thinks kids should be forced into taking stuff that they aren’t really interested in, but this one gives me pause. I mean, she really seems to like it when she’s actively playing. And she’s doing so well. It’d be a shame to just let her quit.

But I don’t want to make her unhappy either, and she’s starting Grade One in the fall and that’ll be crazy enough without three activities on her plate (assuming we add in the piano).

Did anyone out there take piano lessons as a kid? Did you resent your parents making you take lessons long after you wanted to quit? Or did your parents let you walk away, and now you regret it?

I’d love to hear some advice on this one.

13 thoughts on “Gal Smiley, The Next Tori Amos

  1. Well, if it helps, I am incredibly glad my parents didn’t let me quit, (I went to grade nine piano) and my husband says his parents always told him he’d regret quitting piano and French — and he absolutely regrets quitting both. Eve started piano in the fall the same time she started grade one and she loves it — but right now it is a bit tough getting her to practice. I want them both to get at least a couple of years under their belt though — it makes such a difference to anything musical you want to do later. (also, thanks for the hug in comment form – badly needed).

  2. Good question. Hmmm. Well, we’re doing the Music for Young Children thing for our two. O took to it like a duck to water and L is having challanges. So O is continuing on next year and L is taking a break – more stress than joy it seems. But that doesn’t mean that music is out forever. We’ll find something else that suits her in the arts and get her into it this fall.
    I took piano up to gr. 6, then flute for high school. I remember being in tears as I was made to practice and I remember the pride at the accomplishments.
    So I guess my advice in a nutshell is trust your instincts. Is Gal Smiley just distracted or is there some kind of honeymoon is over and I guess I actually have to work at this type thing going on? Regardless, whatever you decide now will not mean that she can’t do more in the future. There are many options when it comes to music and I think you are right in not overprogramming. Grade 1 is a bit of a jump & she’ll be tired.
    Hope this helps!

  3. CapnPlanet

    I took piano from age 6 to age 13, and I don’t really remember liking it a lot, but I’m extremely grateful that my parents kept me at it; music has probably been my most enduring hobby, and I’m still active.

    OTOH my siblings also took lessons, and it never really stuck with them. For me it was clearly a win, for them, not so much. These things are never easy; I’m sure you can find evidence to justify either decision and in the end you just have to go with your gut.

  4. I wish my mom had signed us up for piano lessons. The Boy is taking piano (swimming was causing no undue amount of stress so The Man showed him how to swim.) He’s just started making up his own songs and writing them down. This year he has asked if he can take guitar.

    Speaking to many friends who are musicians they seem to agree that the piano serves as a wonderful base for all other instruments.

    1. CapnPlanet

      +1. Learn to play the piano and learn to read music. For extra credit, learning to play by ear is a key skill, though more difficult.

  5. i’m a little unsure if i should really admit to this, but i took organ lessons when i was 12. my parents bought an organ and it came with lessons. i took them. it was fun, but nothing serious like piano lessons. the hubby took piano. we don’t have a piano so i don’t see us getting the jb into lessons. since i didn’t go through it i would lean more to the side of if she really isn’t enjoying it, why force it on her? and it’s not like she could never take lessons again…

    that wasn’t much help was it.

  6. I had the same dilemma with my daughter. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to who has taken piano lessons either a) regrets that their parents let them quit or b) is grateful that their parents didn’t let them quit. Trying a lot of different activities is good when kids are young, but I think really honing one particular skil, that they’re good at, l is also good. It gives them an edge later on in life. I always thought that if all else fails my daughter would at least have the music skill to fall back on – teach, play gigs – whatever. So, I made her continue with her lessons for 8 years. She loved it at first, then was okay with it and then the last couple of years just dragged herself through them and stopped making any progress. So, I finally let her switch to guitar. She seems to be enjoying that.

    1. Agree with Brie. Nothing wrong with a little break. Find excuses for her to “keep at it” like new songs to learn informally. If she decides she’s having fun she’ll be at it.

      Also to consider: many an excellent musician (not concert pianists, mind you) are self-taught. If the piano is available, and is not shoved to the corner and let to collect dust, she might decide she likes to tinker on it. If not a concert pianist, it might become an avenue for songwriting.

      In other words, letting her pass on piano lessons for now doesn’t “necessarily” mean that she’ll give it up forever. Also, ‘encouraging’ (making) her stay in them doesn’t guarantee anything, either. My wife did piano up to Conservatory grade 6 (well, she failed grade 6 test…). She played for me once since I’ve known her (a decade), has zero improvisational skills, cannot play any songs without sheet music in front of her, and has no real interest in playing.

      Sorry to write a comment as long as your blog post, but bottom line–it’s not the end of the world or the end of piano if she skips on it this fall to explore other interests.

      PS, I love Tori Amos. 😉

  7. i think it’s a lovely skill to be able to read music, whatever the instrument may be. i think i might look into signing my girls up for something this fall
    i hated piano and flute lessons, practising, etc. no regrets that i quit when i did, but i have to admit that i like that i can still read music. maybe if my parents had let me play something cooler (sax, bass guitar) i’d be a rock star today.

  8. I used to be adamant that my girls couldn’t be enrolled in too many things at one time. But now that they are 6&8, they seem to be able to handle it well. The both love their piano lessons, but they would never choose piano over swimming, and so they get to do both. To me both of those skills are important. They also do an art class on Sunday mornings, but it is low key and at a neighbour’s home. They do 10 weeks of soccer in the spring in a highly recreational group. and now in the fall I’m thinking about dance because they both are dying to try it. It does sound like an awful lot though when I write that all down.

    I guess it’s a balance though because we don’t pack in too much else into our weeks. I’m fine with staying in PJs on a Saturday for most of the day, and we try not to drag the kids around on a lot of errands or shopping trips. As long as they are happy and their school work is good, we will keep going.

  9. I begged my parents to let me take piano lessons, just like my best-friend-at-the-time was taking. They payed for the lessons, and then they bought a piano, I kept up the lessons for a few years, and then started hating piano and eventually quit. I kinda wished they would have encouraged me to keep at it, or at least come up with some creative deal to stick with it – e.g. piano lessons half the year, or something like that. They still have that piano and they never fail to remind me how much it cost them to buy it at the time. And that was like thirty years ago. Anyway, I’m not sure what my advice would be. Perhaps no lessons for now, but to keep encouraging her to practice and maybe keep it as a summer thing??

  10. I loved playing the piano, but I hated piano lessons.

    Before I took lessons, I played at my leisure, but the lessons felt like work. I had to do certain stuff and certain times, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

    Piano, unlike, say, dance, felt more like school somehow. Maybe because someone was watching over my shoulder too often. Maybe because there was a clearer idea of when you got it “right” and when you got it “wrong”.

    Looking back, it’s hard to say if I regret the years I took lessons. On one hand, I probably wouldn’t have improved as much as I did. On the other hand, I may be still playing today if I hadn’t grown to dread it.

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