Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Piano Sweatshop

It's 9 o'clock on Saturday
and the regular crowd shuffles in.

A young boy sits at the piano, his legs dangling from the bench. A lamp illuminates the keys in yellow light.

"Have you practiced?" He hesitates. "Um, yes m'am."

She senses weakness, turns and looks at him over the glasses balancing at the end of her nose. "We shall see. Begin with an F# scale in the key of G minor and follow it up with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat."

Sweat begins to bead on his forehead as he brings his trembling little fingers to the keys. And the metronome begins.


Alright, you got me. I made this scene up. And I can't resist Billy Joel sometimes. You know I have a vivid imagination and tend to fill in the gaps of a story on my own. But my mind creates this dramatic scene every time I pass a house that is near the entrance to our neighborhood.

This is The Piano Sweatshop. It never fails that each time I pass this house, the front room blinds are pulled all the way up and there is a teacher and a young Asian child at the piano. It doesn't matter the time or the day. Wednesday 5:30 PM, Sunday 9:00 PM , Saturday 8:00 AM - class is ALWAYS in session.

A mini-van or two are usually waiting outside for The Exchange: one picking up and the other dropping off. It's all part of the Piano Mom Cartel. But I'm thinking about putting a sting operation together.

As I drive by at 8:30 on a Friday night and I see those little ones diligently at the piano, it makes me sad. I guess I shouldn't judge, maybe the child loves playing at all hours! But, 9:00 on Sunday night? It reminds me of the Tiger Mom. Have you read about that? Maybe it doesn't fall under child labor laws, but I'm almost positive there is something illegal going on here.

I have a friend who was raised by Tiger type parents and is adamantly opposed to this line of parenting from personal experience. My parents always forced me to try new things even if I was scared to death. Often, after I got over my fear I was grateful that they had pushed. But what is the line? I'm a dog parent, so my experience only involves strenuous hours of practicing fetch.

Will the child grow up to thank their parents for instilling discipline in order to attain a skill? Or will they grow bitter, regretting a childhood lost?

He says son can you play me a memory? I’m not really sure how it goes, but it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete when I wore a younger man’s clothes.

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