Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star… my 6-yr-old son Calvin pounded out on the piano. My 8-yr-old daughter, Ava, chimed in too with her version of Chopsticks. Over the dueling pianos, my husband and I tried to have an informative conversation about used pianos. We were at the used piano shop, Keys 4 Kids, on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.
I took lessons growing up – first through fifth grade. Piano went by the wayside in favor of the flute. I knew there was no possible way to manage both. I couldn’t even complete my required piano practice. Lessons were sure convenient though. I could run to our next door neighbor’s house in 30 seconds where my teacher, Mrs. Sanner, lived.
I had never actually shopped for a piano. My husband knows a thing or two about music though. He also took piano lessons and went on to play the trombone and guitar. He at least has as ear to determine piano tunedness. We had started the discussion about piano a mere nine months ago. We were just now ready to take action. There had to be some proof of interest on the kids' part. They played at their great Aunt's home over the summer, our next door neighbor in Minneapolis spent some time with them, and they listened intently to their older cousin play for them. Okay, so they're ready we agreed.
We considered an electric keyboar for quite awhile. I just wasn’t sold on the idea. Finally my husband agreed – it was time to go the authentic route. Some quick research directed us to Keys for Kids where people donate their pianos and Keys repairs and tunes them up to resell them for $99 – $699 and up. At Keys we discovered a front office, backroom and way backroom filled with pianos of all types – spinet or console, upright or grand.
The tuner worked on one as the kids naughtily ran up and down the aisles of pianos running their fingers over them. We took him away from his fine-tuning to get his review of two that were in play for us to purchase. Both had their own history and were quite reasonable in price (Keys also delivers and tunes in your home). The salesperson encouraged us to put a deposit down if we were serious then they’d hold it for a week, which we did. She also said to take some measurements, pictures and time to think about the options.
We left feeling pretty accomplished. I’d be happy with either – a Cable or Wurlitzer – no matter to me. Would it get its due of small fingers diligently learning their scales? Would it sit in the family room long after they’d progressed to other instruments? I have high hopes. Especially now that the other piece – lessons at the Music Lab - is falling into place.
I like that the Lab doesn’t do recitals (the kids just play at some local coffee shops ocassionally) and they bring a group of kids together to have jam sessions. It seems to be about keeping it interesting, finding alternate ways to keep them learning and showing them some inspiration – like having them listen to modern music they actually like and playing a paired down version or a melody.
I recall setting my timer for 30 minutes and going through the motions of certain songs and rewarding myself with Nadia’s Theme or Tearms of Endearment if boredom threatened. I hope it can keep their interest. It remains to be seen.
My question for parents is this: Along with the desire to expose our children to everything possible – sports, art, language, clubs and the like – decisions to join or not to join enter in. Where does the importance of music lessons fall on your scale?