Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How much is too much to ask?

Several weeks ago, I discovered Utah Symphony's Youth Guild. It's the perfect kind of program for someone like my daughter whose whole world is music. Not only do we get really discounted symphony tickets, but there are educational opportunities and other ways to enmesh oneself in the world Bianca loves. They have these masterclasses where professors of music and professional musicians come and help the kids with their music. They were doing a piano masterclass requesting performers so I called to find out what was involved and what level the performer needs to be at. The woman answered, "Concerto," which I have an idea what that means and promptly responded that I didn't think my daughter was quite ready. She asked me what her latest polished piece was and although it wasn't quite polished yet, I told her Beethoven's Fur Elise. She said she'd put Bianca on the list.

After I hung up, I started to worry. In fact, I hoped she wouldn't be chosen but a week later we got the call that she made it as a performer. That's when my worry went into overdrive. I even resorted to bribery (I'm not proud of it) but I talked her in to playing the song ten times a day and I'd buy her two books she'd been wanting. Bianca totally fulfilled her end of the bargain and she practiced without complaint. And she improved and she even memorized it (which I hadn't expected) and at home, the song was nearly perfect. She was ready.

Yesterday, I took her downtown for the masterclass. Most of the other performers were quite a bit older than Bianca (most were high-schoolers playing Rachmaninoff and Chopin and the other great piano concertos). Bianca stood up there bravely, struggled with the bench that was quite large for her, and played her piece. And as she played, Bianca struggled in a way I hadn't seen her do for weeks. She even stopped the song a couple times to get back on track. But she made it through and she finished strong. The instructor (Hilary Demske, a professor at UVU) helped her with several things--she was using much too much pedal (in the video, you can see her pumping away at it like she's playing a pump organ) and her left hand drowns out her right hand in the fast section near the end and Hilary taught her a way to make big chords easier with her small hands.

The next morning, as I watched the video, I cringed. Not because of her messing up (well, a little because of that) but mainly because I know I put too much pressure on her. Bianca didn't ask me to throw her into a group of musicians who are on the fast-track to Julliard. She just loves playing the piano and music. Maybe this is all just too much for her. I mean, her goal isn't to be a concert pianist. In fact, she says she likes playing her stringed instruments better and she really wants to be a composer. But she's very good at piano and I guess I wanted to believe that she fit in with this group of people. Because I was the one who pushed her in. I guess this is a life lesson for me.

But how do the kids who are truly great get noticed without pushy parents who take a chance? What about that little 10-year-old girl who sings opera on America's Got Talent? My guess is she had a pushy mom (or other person in her life) or no one would know she exists. I read recently that Beethoven was a prodigy just as Mozart was as a child but his parents didn't know how to "market" him the way Mozart's parents did. I'm not saying Bianca's a prodigy, but I do want to give her all the opportunities in the world she can have. I guess I just need to make sure she wants them.

She did work hard and despite her mistakes, I'm still very, very proud of her. (After watching the video again, I'm a little heartbroken that it's me Bianca looks at right before the performance and right after. I'm guessing my opinion means more to her than anyone else's. She needs to know that I'm proud of her and I'm going to make sure I let her know.)


Cami said...

But what an experience for both of you.
I think a little pushing is good. Sometimes I wonder where I'd be if I was pushed a bit more. Obviously, your conscience overrides your mistakenly going over the top with it.
When I pushed myself to audition for the Utah Opera chorus, I was out of my league, but I never have to have that 'first' experience again. Just think of this as a great notch in Bianca's belt.

Susannah said...

I don't know what you expected, but that was amazing. She is 8, and not only memorized that piece but played it pretty well in my humble opinion. I remember learning that song, and my fingers were moving right along with her as I watched. Thanks for posting the video, and you need to be very proud of that amazing little girl!

rachel said...

She did really well. I have to say, that girl of yours at BARELY nine years old achieved something here that most of us would never have the wherewithal or talent to do. I think these are the character defining moments that will enable her to reach her goals. Wow! I'm really proud of her.

Crystal said...

I think that parenting is a learning process for us as much as the kids. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer except that you know what is the right balance for you and Bianca in these things. I think you're a great mom and are giving her great opportunities. Follow your own instincts when making these decisions because you are the best one to make them.

I know that watching her in the video, I'm certainly impressed with her!

Christie Gardiner said...

Jeana, we're all learning. I took Hailey out of gymnastics where she excelled and put her in musical theater where I excelled. I regret it so much and can't wait to put her back where she belongs. But I really thought I was doing the best thing at the time. So did you. And maybe next year, it will Bianca who wants to do the master class.