Shreys was six when he started lessons with me. He had difficulty paying attention, and frequently did not want to play the piano at all. He also could not seem to understand what I wanted him to do, no matter how patiently or repeatedly I explained it. I thought his father wanted him to be there more than Shreys did, which didn’t help matters.
One day, after a long day of lessons and frustration, I am embarrassed to say I lost my temper with him. He had not been practicing, and I became very annoyed. However, near the end of the lesson, Shreys looked up at me and said, “Please don’t throw me out of piano, Miss Rachel.”
I realized that he wanted to be there, and after that our relationship changed. With Shreys, I had to figure out how to make things more fun, how to let him see that playing piano was just that: play.
First, I had to determine how much he could handle. We started doing a lot of rhythm games. One thing he loved was to clap patterns after me, which we did nearly every lesson. Another one of his favorite activities was tapping the rhythm with his feet. That, along with a five finger scale and one song, were all he could do before losing focus. It was enough, I realized. I had been placing too many expectations on him, and needed to let him learn at his own pace.
Shreys became one of my favorite students. He would race into my studio to hug me before lessons, and did not want to leave when our half hour was up. I learned how to make him laugh. One of my favorite memories is of Shreys falling off the bench in laughter. “Oooooh, Miss Rachel. You’re soooo funny!” He began practicing more regularly, and when he didn’t practice, I still figured out ways to help him love what we were doing, even if it was our fourth week with the same eight measure song. At the recital that spring, Shreys and I played a simple duet. His rhythm was excellent, and he was excited to play. I couldn’t have asked for more, and I was glad I did not.
Teaching piano requires a difficult balancing act. I do want to challenge my students, but I don’t want them to not have fun or not hear how beautiful the music can be. Shreys helped me rediscover how much fun playing the piano is, even when it is an eight measure duet.