The “Trouble-Making” Piano Teacher

March 12, 2007 jeansdream

Further to my 5 Things posting, here’s another one I can add on.

I play some piano. I had two piano teachers. The first one, Mr. Ngo, was teaching me when I started (at age 6). Then couple years later, I was referred to Mr. Chan for the advanced courses.

I was never a big fan of piano. I like piano music, but you know, to play really well, it takes a lot of discipline and hours of practicing. I am more “free-spirited”; plus school work was getting heavy (note I never said extra-curricular like girl scouting was heavy!!)… excuses…. yes I know. 🙂

Hence, I practiced most on the piano lesson day (and I hope my Dad and Mom are not reading this) – ’bout 30 to 45 minutes before the start. (Next most frequest practice hours would be the minute before my beloved mother opened the gate of our condo. 😀 )
Mr. Ngo, the first teacher, was very nice. Very encouraging, and sometimes told my mother that I was smart and had the “gene” to do well, but was just a little not working hard enough. He didn’t say the “L” word. That probably was the good strategy for little kids. You want them to have the fun and don’t spoil their interests by making them doing scales over and over again.

So sometimes I got by with the pre-lesson 45-minute (max; sometimes only 10 minutes – oh dear… 😛 ) practice… but as I progressed into more difficult music, I couldn’t fool around anymore. Quite embarassing actually in the lessons when I played so lousy… Unlike Mr. Ngo, Mr. Chan, who’s also the piano teacher of my pretty cousin Pauline, would tell my Mom that Pauline, who started couple years after me, was catching up. “Pauline was doing well; she’s going for the level X certification…” I think I might be at level “X+1” at that time. “Pauline is now going for level Y.” And I was going for level “Y – 1”. My mom told me that Mr. Chan actually asked to quit more than once because I was too lazy and he felt he was wasting time with me and I was wasting my parent’s money. Hence I thought he’s the “trouble-making” piano teacher. You can imagine what my Mom would do to me after he said much, huh. He’s not all negative. When I made an effort to practice, he would praise me. He paid attention to my work – tho much of the time there wasn’t much for him to pay attention to… It’s more like him reciting than me reciting…

Well, before I totally stopped taking piano lessons with Mr. Chan, I passed the level 6 certification of the Royal Conservatory of Music of the Hong Kong chapter. Nothing near a distinction, but at least I passed. That was like a little “something” for my parents, tho my Mom always said, “This is for your own benefit!”

I still play piano tho the frequency was near “zip” couple years ago when I worked crazy hours. Ever since then, I haven’t touched the piano periodically for a loooooong time. I can play so I can sing. I like that. For the time that I was helping a choir, I even taped the piano part and played the 4 vocal parts in turn and “mixed” the piano and the vocal part for the choir members to take home for self-practice. Quite neat. Yes, that’s the benefit that my Mom was talking about – just that I didn’t always realize… especially when I was “forced” to practice scales. 😀

Last month I heard from my Mom, that Mr. Chan, has got cancer. Things are not looking good. Honestly I can’t remember his face clearly. I may even have mixed him up with another friend of my parents. But I still remember his fingers. Not the typical professional pianist fingers that were long and narrow. His fingers were short, a little fat and blunt but very “mobile”; but man, music flowed like liquid from his hands; always a pleasant (and a relief) to hear him reciting. He used to encourage me by saying “practice can overcome the short fingers”. He’s a living proof.

Last night in my dream, I saw Mr. Chan. He was talking to my Mom. “Lim Tai Tai (in a Chinese Dialect), the tax report was printed wrong, again. It was a mistake carried over from the last report. See, my right arm will be amputated. But my left arm will be ok!” Then I started to cry…

A teacher who doesn’t set expectation is not a good teacher. A teacher who doesn’t challenge me is not a good teacher. A teacher who doesn’t “make trouble” for my laziness is not a good teacher. Please join me to say a prayer to wish Mr. Chan, my “trouble-making” piano teacher well. Mr. Chan is also God-fearer. May his soul find comforts in the Lord.

Thank you, Mr. Chan, for patiently being my “trouble-making” piano teacher. You never quit on me. You were with me till the last school year before the major public exam where I dropped all non-study-related activities (including girl scouting). I miss you and bid you well. Take care!

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Entry Filed under: Dreams,Getting to know each other

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kempton  |  March 13, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    I hope things will turn out well for Mr. Chan.

    On the piano side, not that I lacked the chance to learn it but I was too lazy so I never much touch the piano at home. Now, I so much want to play anything and read any music so that I can score my own movie a little.

    Best wishes to Mr. Chan.

  • 2. bgj  |  March 15, 2007 at 3:41 am

    That was a very moving post. He sounds like an inspiring teacher and someone who you will remember forever. I hope he recovers. I’m sure a copy of the above sent to him in hardcopy with a personal note would make his day. Our thoughts are with Mr Chan.


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