A few weeks ago, M expressed an interest in classical music after listening to some on a drive with his Papa. I took this new interest to heart, and when I happened upon a production of a child-oriented play called “Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery”, which was taking place a few days later at our local theatre, I right away told him about it and got us a couple of tickets.
We went to the play in the late afternoon that Saturday, and I was really excited to be accompanying M to The Theatre for the first time. I rambled on about how happy I was to be there, explained the chime calling audience members to their seats, etc. And then the theatre darkened and the play began. First there was a male character giving the audience some background to the story, and then a female character emerged with her violin. Not long after her appearance, she began playing that violin, and I watched as she swayed with the music and became immersed in the beautiful melody she was creating. And that’s when I was hit by a visceral deschooling epiphany.
Before I describe the truth that suddenly overcame me, for the sake of my ego I want to explain that while what I discovered will appear completely obvious, and, well, duuhhhhh (as Disgust would say in that “Inside Out” movie)… it was still a revelation to me because of my many years’ experience reluctantly taking piano lessons.
So here it is: The purpose of learning to play an instrument is playing that instrument!! Wow. As soon as that very thought entered my mind, I thought back to my piano lessons and realized that the purpose of learning to play the piano is not to be tortured with practice, not to pass exams, to please parents or the teacher, or to win competitions; it’s being able to express yourself through music. Learning to play an instrument means you get to play that instrument and submerge yourself in all the wonderful music that that ability opens up for you. Learning to play means experiencing playing, which is the only reason to do it. Whoosh! What a revelation!
Shortly after I became aware of how my idea of playing the piano was so disconnected from what it actually means to play music on the piano, I got sad and a little angry that I had been so completely misled. I always felt my time had been wasted trying to learn the piano (and from the beginning I was, in a few ways, set up to fail), but watching that talented woman play her violin helped me to realize that it wasn’t just time that I had lost, it was also a true understanding of the experience of music that was denied me because of backwards and harmful priorities.
Anyway, I was very grateful for that unexpected moment of insight, and I was glad that M enjoyed the play. A few days later he asked if we could rent a piano keyboard like we had a little over a year ago, and so we did later that week…