When I was 11 years old my parents decided to enroll me in my neighborhood’s middle school which had a music program. I was thrilled at the idea of starting at that school, I had been playing the piano since I was 5, and after years of private lessons, I started to feel that studying piano at a public school would have been a totally different story. For me it was like the first step towards getting more serious, and I still remember the excitement when I found out that I had passed the admission exam for the afternoon piano classes.
The first year went by smoothly. I got along with my teacher, I was happy to go to class and I remember that we worked on different pieces throughout the year. I loved playing, but I was not at all a good student, at home I used to play just the things I liked, systematically leaving the hardest passages for “later”, which never came. This caused my improvement to be slow, tiresome and erratic; a bad way of studying, which I was able to correct only towards the end of my conservatory years and in the first years after my diploma.
As I was saying though, this was not a problem for me, in fact, it was the opposite. I was truly passionate and I was talented and that is why I was able to improve even without discipline.
At the end of the first year though, my teacher left. She was replaced by someone whose name I will not write for fairness, but that I never forgot.
The music totally changed; the relationship between us was awful from day one. Her lack of desire to work was contagious and I quickly lost my interest for the instrument. I felt no pleasure or gratification during the lesson, she always found an excuse to raise her voice, reproach me or make me feel like I didn’t matter at all to her.
We got to a point where she openly told me that she thought I should stop playing the piano.
It was after a few years and after I started teaching myself, that I realised how wrong it is to destroy a kid’s pleasure by telling him to quit playing, when, as a teacher, your advices should be totally different.
Luckily, from then on, a number of teachers followed each other, one better than the other (with a few exceptions), and they made it possible for me to start playing again with the rightful perception of my skills and means, rekindling the flame thanks to which today I’m doing what I love.
Unfortunately it took a lot of time. That teacher left some unresolved questions that only now, that I’m over them, I can analyse and see with the right critical sense.
On one side there was the aforementioned lack of consideration of my abilities. The other problem was that she preferred working with other people, objectively less talented than me and, more over, less passionate (they all stopped playing in the next few years).
These two situations made it so that during the years, I was enjoying a little bit less what I was doing, because I was living with the constant fear that I was being negatively judged from someone: teachers, students, anyone.
As if that was not enough, this small discomfort was making me compete with other musicians. I wanted to be the best, and I wanted everyone to know that I was the best. I remember a few recitals during which I pushed myself to play to the best of my abilities to show the others my skills. Classes or masterclasses in which my only goal was to show my qualities.
Demonstrate. Show off. No one will ever tell you again that you should do something else in your life.
This means never enjoying the pure essence of what you’re doing. Always having ulterior motives, other goals, makes you lose sight of what you’re doing and the real reasons why you’re doing it, which are way stronger and deeper.
Music is great and being a musician should be rewarding by itself, without an aberrant self-promotion or delusional desires of supremacy.
A few days ago I was thinking about this whole situation for the hundreth time. Today I can say I am over it. I finally found again the true pleasure that Music can give; I play for myself and I share it with those who can appreciate it, trying to get closer to people without distracting myself with an unreasonable competitiveness that doesn’t belong to me. And the most important thing: I try to pass on to my students these thoughts. First of all trying to understand what Music means to us, then spread our “discoveries”, our interpretation, our point of view.
What is this for?
First of all, I think it’s therapeutic for me to put it all on paper, a souvenir of my interior transformation. Though the real reason is another one.
I don’t believe I’m the only one who lived a small trauma like this one, that led to a disruption of a part of oneself. In a world based excessively on competition, on demonstrating that you’re the best, I want to carry the testimony of someone who abbandoned a way of thinking that it’s not healthy for anyone. Making Music in a more serene way led me to achieve great satisfactions, to live in a healthier way and I’m convinced that if I focus on spreading and sharing my interpretation I can do good for someone else.
If you read so far I’m glad I got to share my thoughts for the time being.