so what… i’m not a rock star

Ballet lessons, swimming lessons, music lessons – it’s the time of year when all the ‘lessons’ start back up. My kids are offered many ‘lessons’. This piece might explain why.

So What … I’m Not A Rock Star

This week I had to retrieve a piece of equipment which had been borrowed by a colleague. I sent her an email saying, “I’m going to be over your way today so perhaps I can pop in and collect it.” I read over my short missive and couldn’t help but do a major re-write. ‘I will be over your way today as I have to take my daughter to her guitar lesson…’ This extra piece of information was completely irrelevant to my colleague. I had to ask myself, ‘What’s with the whole stage mother incarnation?’ Now, let me see…

When I was in high school a good friend of mine played an instrument. Back in those days music lessons were not necessarily de-rigueur as they are for many kids today, but my friend had joined a brass band and was the proud master of a euphonium. I was incredibly jealous of this skill – not so much the euphonium part but the reading and playing music part. As an excellent all-round student I was frustrated by the fact that there was a whole world unavailable to me; a complete range of desirable skills that were seemingly out of my reach.

Playing an instrument became my holy grail. I arranged and trotted off to guitar lessons when I was 13 and I vividly remember my embarrassment as I clunked onto the bus with my unwieldy instrument. The lessons were a disaster. Reading music was a skill which eluded me. The dots and lines on the sheet music simply failed to compute. My fingers seemed to lack the necessary dexterity and – it transpired – I was also tone deaf and rhythmically challenged.

Not one to be beaten I took music as an elective in senior school where I was handed a saxophone. Now, the sax is such an incredibly sexy sounding instrument that you would think anyone with opposable thumbs and a little tutelage could make one rock. Not me. Drowning in my own ineptitude I dropped out of music and concentrated on English – the one thing I could read.

My ambition to be musical, however, continued unabated. As an adult I took a singing course at the local community centre. I sang along in group sessions until the final lesson where we were required to perform solo. We were a nervous bunch and no-one wanted to go first. Biting the bullet (and obviously still deluded) I put up my hand. My performance was so woeful that a flurry of hands followed. I could almost hear their thoughts, ‘I know I’m not that bad’.

I have even shocked close family and friends during karaoke sessions. “Oh!” they exclaim after hearing me, their usual tactfulness scared into hiding, “I really thought you would be able to sing.” Yes, that makes two of us. I am still not completely reconciled with the fact that I am never going to be Missy Higgins.

So what do most good parents do with their unrequited dreams? Live them through their children of course. Naturally I’m not kidding, but I did always resolve to offer music lessons to my children at an early age so that any latent talent would have a chance to emerge.

Perhaps Indy and Levi’s initial response should have made me wary. Last year I asked them both if they would like to learn a musical instrument. “Yes,” said Levi immediately. He had obviously already thought this through. “I want to learn the air guitar!” Trying as best I could to compose myself I turned to Indiana and asked what she would like to learn. Big blue eyes full of earnest inspiration she replied, “I’d like to learn the microphone.” The Partridge Family we ain’t. Not yet, anyway.

Fortuitously Indiana received a flyer in her school bag at the end of the year which was from a much-loved part-time teacher at her school. She is that fabulous type of primary school teacher – always with a guitar in hand, leading kids in song. (This, incidentally, is the major reason why I studied secondary teaching at uni rather than primary – my paralytic fear of having to teach music). So Indy’s Christmas gift from Nan and Pop was a beautiful new guitar – an actual one, not an air one.

Indy and I set off on Monday to the introductory school holiday workshop. “How long will I have to go for?” she asked. “Well, you might go for many years until you feel you are good enough,” I replied. “Today you will probably just learn how to hold the guitar and Mrs Dodd might have to tune it.” “Oh,” she said, looking somewhat crestfallen. “Is it going to be like dancing, you know, where you have to learn all the steps, when all I want to do is something exciting like a concert?” I gently tried to explain the importance of persistence when mastering a skill but I must admit that I was on red alert, expecting her to be disappointed that she was unable to play with Pink after the first lesson.

Two hours later I drove in trepidation to collect her. I was invited in by her teacher and listened as Indy strummed away to the tune of The Spot Song (‘Put a spot over here, and a spot over there…’). Watching her little fingers find the right place on the frets caused me to choke up as my own musical failures hovered like spectres in my psyche.

On the way home Indy said, “It was much more exciting than I thought. We even got food!” Well versed with my own childhood musical traumas she said, “I bet you didn’t get that at your guitar lessons when you were a kid. Maybe that’s why you never really learned to play.”

I had to agree. I still can’t believe I lack the musical gene. I think a few strawberries mid-lesson might have been exactly what I needed to uncover my latent rock star.

Do your children take music lessons? How do you encourage them – especially if, like me, you are not musically inclined?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “so what… i’m not a rock star

  1. I was one of those who loved music and had lessons. Now I’m following through with guitar lessons for my boy and will start the girls on piano this year.
    I wanted to dance and was never allowed until I’d nearly finished school. And by then I think I looked a bit like dumbo.
    My girls are in dance classes and I’ve even encouraged my boy to do dancing [too tuff!] He’d do hip hop so we might be starting him there soon. 🙂
    xx

  2. skippy_2

    I love music and cannot go a day without listening to it. Music fills my waking hours. If I’m working from home I will have the stereo on from sun-up ’til late. But I’m not musical and neither is my partner.
    I have what is clinically known as ‘no damned talent whatsoever’.
    My son plays alto sax and clarinet, my daughter plays trumpet. We, the adults, attend performances, encourage practice and bathe in the reflected glory of our talented children.
    In 2008 I went to China as chaperone/roadie with the school jazz band, and that was an incredible bonding experience for my son and me.
    Occasionally I will pull out the guitar and give a rendition of ‘Hey, Mr Tambourine Man’ and my children will comment on my ability to replicate Dylan’s gravel voice. With a guitar.
    Talent may skip a generation (or two). Just be supportive, and remember, the musicians get the chicks, the sporty guys get the bruises. ;’)

  3. I too was a complete musical what’s-the-opposite-of-prodigy who has one musical child. My daughter learns flute thanks to a wonderful school concert band that gave her the opportunity to borrow an instrument, and then her marvellous flute teacher recommended she learn piano as well, because she showed a bit of promise. I have loved watching her learn and grow. The school band has been the best incentive to practise and her teacher suggested she do exams to give her a goal. She jumped at the chance, then broke her wrist stacking her skateboard a week before! But as we aren’t aiming for a career in music we will just try again this year, no harm done. Well apart from, ya know, the wrist…

    Her brother is learning guitar, but happy to just cruise along strummy strummy and aspires to nothing more than the school guitar group next year. In the meantime he does a mean air guitar to AckaDacka, and I’m good with that.

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