Earlier this year, the tween did her grade one piano exam. Now, in this household, piano practice falls into that category of REALLY BLINKING PAINFUL to get her to do. Along with homework, they are the two things I really dread having to make her do due to the the tantrum that will inevitably appear with it. Homework I can let go to an extent, if she does it, she does it, but piano practice I feel she should at least show a little willing seeing as I pay through the nose for the lessons.

She’d been practicing the scales, broken chords (the phrase still makes me shudder) and the pieces for a while. I had even resurrected my piano skills to help her along at her most unwilling moments. However, it was clear she was doing nowhere near enough and that there was a strong chance she just wouldn’t be ready for the booked exam. Her teacher told her quite categorically, there was a chance she could fail and she needed to do more rigorous practice. There was even a practice time table written out in her notebook.

However, this seemed to do the trick and she became very fluent and confident in it all – there was a vast improvement, and actually for grade one she wasn’t sounding bad at all! The mock exams she did (alongside the extra lessons …) resulted in passes, even a mark or two off merit. All was going swimmingly. The night before her exam, she whizzed through the pieces and scale practice, and declared she had done enough. For once, I thought ‘yes! Have a break, end on a high, go in fresh as a daisy tomorrow and play your little heart out!’.

The morning of the exam arrived, I collected her from school. I could see the nerves were setting in. She wobbled into the rehearsal room, and I bit back the tears. Why do they suddenly look so vulnerable? She was in and out of the exam in less than 10 minutes. She came out with a smile. Her teacher anxiously asked if all had gone well, did she make any mistakes? She thought for a while, and said not really. PHEW! She had done and she was happy with her performance! What more could I ask for?!

Then her teacher left. She burst into hysterical tears.

“I got all Arietta all wrong, Mummy, that was my BEST piece!”

“I kept getting one of the notes wrong on the broken chords”

“I couldn’t do the sight reading AT ALL”

“The piano was horrible, I couldn’t play it, it sounded all funny” (flashback to my brother in c 1983 saying a similar thing)

Over a comforting milkshake, I tried my best to reassure her. She had done all should could. I really felt that. After the wobble at the beginning, she had knuckled down and worked really hard. All this pressure and at the end of it, she could actually fail. What was I doing to my 9 year old? This sort of pressure shouldn’t be allowed, she should be playing for fun! Using her musical talent to make her feel good, not that she is a failure and that hard work sometimes doesn’t pay off!

I honestly thought that was it.I told her chin up, and let’s move on. I wouldn’t be cross if she failed and she never has to do this again.

Two weeks later, the phone rang. It was her piano teacher.

She passed with a MERIT, three marks off a DISTINCTION!

She’s now undertaking grade two, practicing for 10 minutes before her lesson every week …


Stopping at two