Piano practice can lead to family discord. Sally Williams reports
Monday 06 May 1996
Amy Nairn is 11 and lives in north London with her mother. She attends an independent school
I first started playing the piano when I was five. A teacher came to my house once a week. My favourite song was "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". Now, I go to my teacher's house for half an hour every Monday after school. I also have jazz piano lessons every other Friday.
I am supposed to do piano practice every single day for an hour, but I never usually end up doing that much. Mum nags me about it. Just as I'm thinking I should sit down and start doing it, Mum says: "Go and do your piano practice," and she says it every single 10 seconds and it really annoys me. Then, because she is nagging me, it makes me not want to do it at all. I know she's got to tell me to do it, but she goes on and on saying it and it's really annoying. I'm supposed to do it when I come home from school and I'm usually a bit tired. Sometimes I'd rather just mess around in my bedroom or do some drawing. I say that to Mum and she just says: "No!" When I was younger I used to scream: "I don't want to do my piano practice," run up to my bedroom and slam the door. We still shout at each other. In the end though, I give in and do it.
When I'm really, really tired and I've come home from a hard day at school, I think, 'That's it. I'm going to give it up." But Mum is right. I would regret it. My favourite thing I like doing is horse-riding. And I quite like pottery. I have pottery lessons every Wednesday after school. I'm going to take up the saxophone, too. I don't want to be a musician when I grow up. I want to be a horse-rider.
Annie Nairn is co-director of a music education charity
I wanted Amy to learn the piano partly because I now play again and am so frustrated that I didn't persevere when I was younger. I first learnt when I went to boarding school at nine. I had great fun with my friends playing duets and Fifties pop songs. I never had anyone standing over me making me practise. Only my piano teacher. She was horrible to me. She would literally rap my knuckles. The other problem was that my younger brother, who also played the piano, was much better than me. It was very discouraging. Everyone always said how wonderful he was.
I work in the music business and am extremely keen on music. So Amy started going to Baby Music when she was tiny. She was far and away the best of her group. I felt there was something there to encourage.
She is definitely talented, but she doesn't have the push to be brilliant. There is no question of her being A Pianist. But if she perseveres quite a lot more, she will have got far enough to be able always to enjoy it. She's certainly good enough to make a living teaching and, as I say to her, the piano is something she can really have fun with. She is supposed to practise any time between coming back from school and going to bed. She says: "If you don't nag me I'll do it." So I don't nag her and it's 9pm and too late. If left her alone, she wouldn't do it. Not regularly, anyway. She does love it and does get into it, but sometimes she would rather watch TV or ride her pony. She is totally motivated to ride her pony. I would hate her to become a horse-rider. I can think of nothing I'd like less.
Once she gets to 15 or 16, if she wants to give it up, that's OK. My suspicion is that she will be so good, she won't want to. If she makes an effort now, she'll be in a position to make a choice about whether she wants to play the piano or another musical instrument, or no instrument at all.
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