DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

How much potential love of music is stymied by traditional lessons?

By John Terauds on April 17, 2012

In taking on a dozen piano students from a teacher on maternity leave, I’ve wandered onto unfamiliar territory since January, trying to balance the the framework of structured learning, as presented by the Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum, with the fact that I have to connect with 12 very different minds, personalities and skill sets.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

I gave a 5-year-old his third lesson yesterday, which we ended by playing a duet. He already knows how to navigate the keyboard and is doing quite nicely in reading in both bass and treble clefs.

I also have a Grade 9er who can’t tell a D from and F and who, I have no idea how, passed her Grade 7 RCM exam last year.

In the seemingly infinite spectrum between these two sits a 9-year-old who arrives more-or-less prepared, and plays her classical pieces with the sort of distate I would show if I were picking up someone else’s dog shit. Her face is blank, her legs twitch incessantly, she won’t look at me when I try to explain things to her.

I felt so frustrated yesterday that I was on the verge of losing my temper. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked her if there’s some other kind of music she would like to play on the piano.

“I play it all the time,” she replied. “Every day.”

I asked her to play a favourite song for me, and she launched into a piano-pop number from someone I’d never heard of (unsurprisingly). She played with enthusiasm for at least 2 minutes, showing a facility on the keyboard that’s totally absent when playing classical music.

I also noticed that her legs stopped twitching.

When I enthusiastically thanked her for sharing her music with me, I got a huge smile in return — the first once since we met in January.

This is but one episode from a growing list that leaves me wondering about one-on-one music lessons in childhood. How many children leave with a lifelong love and yearning for making their own music versus the number who walk away, never to touch their instruments again?

If a piano or a violin comes to represent toil, duty and obligation, I suspect its status as a potential source of inspiration, self-expression and invention diminishes in proportion.

A 45-minute-a-week lesson in a small studio, centred around the requirements of a syllabus, strikes me as an inadequate response to that conundrum.

Yes, the vast majority of our great and beloved classical (and jazz, and pop) artists have come from precisely this pedagociallty tried, tested and true background. But what about the thousands who have walked away, never to return?

I would love to learn much more about this.

I encourage you to email me your responses, whatever they may be, to suchacritic (at) gmail

In the meantime, here are the fabulously funny Igudesman and Joo with their now-classic “Piano Lesson” sketch:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | Salute to Vienna A Musical Welcome To 2018

By Joseph So on January 3, 2018

Toronto's Salute to Vienna tradition endures with popular opera/operetta arias, elegant waltzes and rousing polkas, elegant classical ballet, swanky ballroom dancing, and as many corny jokes from the maestro as one can bear. What’s not to love?
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

RECORD KEEPING | Jane Coop Handles Prokofiev With Ease In Re-Issue With The Calgary Phil

By Paul E. Robinson on January 11, 2018

Given the diminished state of the classical recording business today, even the most distinguished artists have a tough time putting out concerto recordings. Jane Coop has done the next best thing in re-issuing recordings by the now-defunct CBC Records.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.