Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Our New Baby

On Day 4 of the Suzuki Valhalla Institute, the pianos arrived at the school for the following week's piano summer school. They come on loan from a piano store, but are all on sale while here. Two of them were nice used baby grands with nice sticker prices, further discounted and with free delivery. Out of the blue, my mom came up to me and said "I think you need one of those grands." Not only that, but she offered to pay for it!

For years I'd been trying to get advice on when a student would need a grand. My mom has a good friend who is a Suzuki piano teacher who has significant success at convincing the parents of her 4yo beginners to purchase baby grands at the outset, who believes that all students should have the best instrument their family can possibly afford -- even if that means a second mortgage. At the other extreme, several of the piano teachers I talked to sighed and shrugged and said "I'm just happy when I can get parents to upgrade from an electronic keyboard to an acoustic instrument." Some teachers suggested that students working at a Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 9 or 10 level (Erin is a solid Grade 9 now) should be on a grand, but when asked for their reasoning, they said that because RCM exams at that level are done on grands, students should be practicing on the same. Since Erin has no interest in doing RCM examinations, that reasoning doesn't really apply to us.

I realize now that throughout all my research, I was looking for someone to give me a good push to go out and buy a grand. Thanks for the nudge, mom!

There were a few little issues. First, of all families, ours probably could afford to buy one outright. Eventually we agreed to go halves with my mom, and she would take her gift out of our inheritance :-).

Secondly, where the heck would such a beast go? Our house is already too small! But six months ago I had given away the couch in the "computer room" (family room), looking for more floor space and a reallocation and redefinition of function and space, a project that was still on "pending" status. Together with Chuck, I thought things through and realized that with the upright gone from the living room, that room could finally take on its intended use as a family gathering space, while the computer room could take on more of a learning / music / creativity function. We would move the TV out of this room (perhaps into the living room, or perhaps to the tiny basement room that is my teaching studio) creating more useable space and more storage space. And we decided to remove the three cubby desks that are so cute and fun and useful in theory, but have mostly served a clutter-collecting function for the past five years.

Finally, the really fun issue was "the Yamaha, or the Kawai?" We had lots of help with that one, since Erin's piano teacher, our piano tuner, and the two advanced piano faculty from the summer school whom we've known for a number of years were all in town, and in contact with both pianos throughout the following week. The Yamaha had a lovely bright sound, but had some global mechanical quirks, a lot more cosmetic dings, and would have required the purchase of a humidifier given the wide temperature and humidity fluctuations in our wood-heated home in the winter. It also cost a little more. The Kawai wasn't totally free of mechanical issues, but these appeared to be relatively minor things, and it came with a Dampchaser humidifier/dehumidifier.

So Elmer and Wilf from World of Music delivered it the day after the piano school, took away our nice Klingerman upright, and we christened the 6-foot baby grand Kawai that night with a performance for my mom of the Lento from the Telemann G major Concerto for 2 violas with Erin accompanying Noah and me.

The arrival of the piano has precipitated a number of changes:

  • Fiona has declared that she wants to be a piano-ist, and that she is no longer willing to wait until she is six to start learning, and she wants "real lessons from a teacher" and now would be a good time to start.

  • Noah has pulled out some of the books he was working on a year or two ago and is trying to "heal" his piano skills. He may consider lessons after he has completed that process.

  • Sophie is working through some early primers on her own, though making no noises about lessons.

  • Erin has resurrected much of her favourite repertoire and albums she never quite got around to mastering to her satisfaction and to my surprise was very receptive, dare I say even enthusiastic, about the prospect of recording an album of modern impressionistic pieces as a keepsake and gift to friends / extended family. On the hypothetical play list -- Robert Starer's "Colors" suites 1 & 2, Seymour Bernstein's "Birds" and "Birds 2" suites, and Robert Benedict's "Watercolours for Piano" suite.

  • The spot in the living room where the Klingerman once sat has been vacated to reveal a grimy, much scratched and dented wall seriously in need of repainting. We intend to paint this week and then move the bookcases over to that wall ... and then we'll shop for a matching entertainment centre for the stereo and buy a second chair, and repaint the other two walls (the fourth wall is log & brick).

  • The piano music has all been organized and filed in the wall cupboards.

  • Erin has a cubby desk in her little cabin.

  • Horseplay and food are no longer permitted in the computer room.
All good changes. Hurrah for nudges!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! I have to say that your blog is inspiring me to pick up my violin after over 20 years of silence. I was also a Suzuki kid, started at age 5. But I always wanted to play the piano. Now I'm drawn to Viola. When my youngest gets a bit older, you've inspired me to bring some music back into my life. Thank you and bless you and your wonderful family!


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