You know the old joke, right? A stranger’s walking uptown in New York City and he stops an old man to ask for directions.
Stranger: “Excuse me, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
Old Man: “Practice, practice, practice!”
That’s what I’ve been wanting to drum into the heads of my girls for the last few weeks as they have a cello duet that they’re playing at a recital tomorrow afternoon. It’s not a ridiculously complicated piece by any means, but at 9yo, K- seems to get lost in her part when her big sister is accompanying.
The end result is that half the time they’re practicing it’s lovely and a joy to listen to. Then there’s the other half of the time. I stay out of the room because I don’t want them watching me, but there are times when I cringe at the wrong notes, wrong tempos, and missed sync moments in the music.
The problem is, at some level I think this is going to be a perfect example of what parenting experts call logical consequences: since they were often too busy to spend 10 minutes each day playing through the tune a few times, they’re really not very well prepared for the recital tomorrow.
Now it’s not too dire because it’s just for the families of students who are learning under a specific teacher, maybe a total of 40-50 people in the audience, but still, I’m worried that they’re going to have a bad experience and be embarrassed by how it sounds. The tiny “helicopter parent” voice in my head wants to call the instructor and ask to have them omitted from the program for lack of preparation, but, as I said, a much bigger voice insists that it’s going to be ultimately okay however it turns out, and it’ll be a good experience for both of them, reinforcing that commitment and follow-through are both important.
Turns out that the greatest complaint of any music teacher is that same lack of practice, and I’m not one to talk either. When I was growing up I played clarinet, flute, sax and drums at various times. Lazily and without any dedication at all. Still, if I was going to be doing a solo or duet, I think I would have applied myself just a bit more. But perhaps not.
So tomorrow I’ll dutifully file into the local church for the recital and keep my fingers crossed that it’ll be an “on” performance and that they’ll perform the piece sufficiently well that they will be happy with the results. And if it’s one of those epic fails where they stop and even start over? Well, that’s why it’s called “learning” and “practice”, right?