The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind. ~Kiran Desai
Kyle just turned thirteen a little over a week ago and things are already changing. I am sad to report, yesterday was Kyle’s last formal piano lesson. He’s been taking lessons since he was six years old. Indulge me for a moment, while I take you there and back.
I know I’ve mentioned his music lessons from time to time. Sweet Sounds of Music Music Reinforces Our Tight Bond Music for the Eyes and Ears When Kyle was a little tyke of about five years of age, he wanted to play the guitar. Great! I made one of our famous deals with him. If I got him piano lessons and he learned to read music and play the instrument moderately well, when the teacher said he was ready, I would get him guitar lessons. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. He thought so!
Since I only believe in unconventional gifts, for Kyle’s sixth birthday, I decided to give the gift of music, piano lessons! On his celebration day, I told Kyle what I got him, which meant nothing to a six-year-old. I’m sure he felt “jipped” without having a tangible present from me, but I didn’t care. I knew deep down inside this was the perfect gift.
Mom called around the area looking for a good piano teacher who would instruct our youngster in all aspects of piano. God blessed us with a great one, Ms. Debbie! (who is my cousin Merle Piper’s wife’s sister) Perfect, basically family! In the more recent years, Kyle was instructed by David Emanuelson, a music student at Seton Hill University.
Unfortunately, I was unable to take Kyle for his first lesson due to work, but mom stepped in to get his musical interest started. Before she picked him up, she stopped at the local music store and purchased a basic keyboard. Nothing fancy, just something simple for him to practice on. Mom commented when Kyle saw it, he was smiling from ear to ear. He wanted to start playing the instrument right away. Then, came the lessons. Keep in mind, Kyle was six years old and probably forgot all about my gift to him, since it was mentioned a few weeks earlier, or he truly didn’t care until it became real.
Mom took Kyle to Ms. Debbie’s house for his first lesson. She said he was elated! She couldn’t get him to settle down, he was jumping out of his skin with shear excitement! That made my day! In fact, Ms. Debbie was so good with my little man, that she let him strum her guitar and knock on the piano keys before starting, getting him acclimated. Ms. Debbie said she was happy to see a kid so enthused about lessons, unlike some of her students who were made to go and didn’t want to be there. Good so far!
I felt like I was actually there. Mom called me during the lesson from her car and filled me in on the events leading up to that moment. She was cracking up over Kyle’s reaction and I couldn’t help but join in, while I was sitting at my desk at work. I felt like I could see the scene unfold as if I was a fly on the wall. I know Kyle all too well.
I was thrilled for the kid! Even though many said Kyle was too young and I shouldn’t waste my money, I knew it was what he needed at the time. My intent wasn’t to have a child prodigy, but simply to expose him to various music snippets, and the proper way of reading music and playing the instrument. I was always told that if you can play the piano, you can play any instrument, not to mention he would be able to carry that basic knowledge with him for life. Like mom always says, no one can take education away from you. I agree! Learning something at any age is a good practice.
That night, Kyle told me all about his lesson. He had stars still in his eyes. He demonstrated what he learned from his NEW piano books and showed me his NEW keyboard. He was still lit up like a light bulb hours later, from his earlier adventure. His energy and positive reaction drew me into his experience. I couldn’t help it, I was psyched, and they weren’t even my lessons! I did ask Kyle, “So you think you’re gonna like it?” While I was asking the question Kyle began nodding his head in affirmation before responding “Yes, Aiya (Aunt Heather)! I love it!” My heart melted for this little boy and his desire to play the piano. All I could say was, “So you like your birthday gift?” Simply he replied, “Yep!”
Over the years, I can honestly say Kyle always did enjoy going to lessons. I’m not sure if it was the lessons, or the fact that all attention was on him, or he enjoyed learning, or he loved getting stickers (early), or the kudos and positive reinforcement that Kyle thrives on. Perhaps is was all the above. He didn’t always like to sit and practice at home, unless we were giving him our undivided attention. Then, he would practice and practice.
Occasionally, Kyle would explore his keyboard and start playing pre-programmed music. Sometimes he would get up and dance around the living room or march around. He was so contagious when he was just plain having fun that I would find myself following in his footsteps. He was our very own pied Piper (pun included). He would also get a kick out of playing a song with the sound of another instrument. Sometimes he would choose the flute or the violin etc. while practicing his lessons. He always did love to discover different sounds. I’m guessing it was his way of challenging himself or to spice it up a bit, maybe both.
From early on, we were told Kyle was doing very well. (Too bad he didn’t practice regularly and wasn’t encouraged from everyone to do so) He was able to identify different notes just from listening and he started to pick up reading the sheet music pretty well too. When learning to play with his left hand, he seemed to do so effortlessly, relative to a youngster. Yep, that was the right move for Kyle at that age. Please keep in mind, there’s no doubt he has a talent, but he never really tried, leaving his untapped potential a mystery. Although if he would have practiced more, I bet he would have even impressed himself.
I always tried to encourage Kyle with piano. I remember when I exposed him to the music of Elton John and the piano man himself, Billy Joel. He was definitely intrigued. He even enjoyed some classical music I gave him. On a side note, one evening we came across MTV Cribbs. You know the show they walk through the house(s) of the rich and famous. That evening they were showcasing 50 cent. (I think). Kyle’s eyes were huge! He was floored at the grandeur of the place, mostly the electronics. I told him to keep up playing the piano and he could be that wealthy. He asked, “I can make money playing the piano?” Too cute! My response, “Heck yes! If you are really that good and dedicated to your discipline.” He practiced the piano that night without instance!
Eventually, I did get him a guitar and lessons for a later Christmas, in addition to his piano lessons. Again, unconventional gifts are the best for a growing, curious, smart little boy. He was never at a loss for toys, especially Thomas the Tank Engine and later Legos. Mom and dad and Nicole always had that covered! I handled the gifts that would eventually shape our rug rat from the inside out.
I believed by the time Kyle was eight or nine years old, he was playing the piano with ease and strumming his way through the guitar. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he would also learn to play the trumpet in junior high and join the jazz band. I’m glad my family and me were all apart of building the foundation for Kyle’s love of music and his musical abilities.
With the exception of maybe a half a year to year, when Kyle chose to focus on guitar, he always played the piano from the age of six to thirteen. He was definitely better at piano than guitar, but of course he had more practice. Although, I was told from Ms. Debbie who initially taught him to play both instruments, that he picked up the guitar better than most. He was a natural with using his hands on the instrument, without looking at the strings and keeping his eyes on the sheet music. Again, piano was a good choice for him initially.
Was all that running around and moving schedules and expense and sometimes fighting with Kyle to practice worth it? Every last second of it! That was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I am so grateful that my parents and my sister all helped me to encourage Kyle and reinforce his lessons. Also friends and other family members were wonderful when asking Kyle about his music instructions. The Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group let Kyle play Christmas tunes for those attending the soup kitchen one year. This positive reinforcement helped shape him even more. I know his dad would have also helped to encourage Kyle too! He probably wouldn’t have missed a lesson.
Honestly, I am sad over Kyle’s decision to stop his piano lessons, but it was always his choice. He was given the opportunity to stop at any time (unless he was paid up until a certain point). Yes, sometimes the lessons were an inconvenience when making plans, especially in the summer, but it was a good obstacle to have to work around. Mom helped out a lot and would step in when I couldn’t. Personally, I loved taking Kyle to his lessons and sitting there listening to him play and watching him progress over the years. Mostly, I treasured my time with Kyle and truly enjoyed hanging out with my little man on an off beat day, just the two of us.
Kyle still plays an instrument, the trumpet. Unfortunately, his guitar days are a thing of the past and maybe the piano will join the guitar in the land of the forgotten, but he’s still involved in music. He’s in the jazz band at school and wants to join the high school marching band playing the trumpet. I can’t wait to be a band parent and watch him in his next years of musical progress! I am very proud!
On another side note, since Kyle’s interests are now into War Machine, I guess I’ll have to take up a new hobby to hang with him. At least we still have snowboarding!
Check out Kyle’s sixth grade musical. He’s in the front row, second from the left in the stripped shirt. This was taken in the spring of 2013.