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Gaea Gomez Fidler loved music as a kid, but found lessons boring. Her more musically experienced siblings, some of them classically trained, pressured Gaea to level up.
And so, like so many kids who don’t get what they need from lessons, Gaea gave up rather than level up.
But now as an adult, enrolling her son Jamie in piano lessons led her to “making friends” with the piano again.
Initially, she took lessons as a way to help Jamie develop and stay motivated. But as his lessons progressed, she recognized her own relationship to music was improving.
Through more positive, engaging lessons– and less external pressure– Gaea has rediscovered the joy of music.
Whether inspired by their own children, redefining their relationship to lessons, or enjoying precious solo time, Piano Power moms find so many benefits to studying an instrument.
A meditative state of mind
Gaea finds that along with the mental challenge of learning music theory, relearning the piano has a meditative effect. Playing piano, she says, relaxes her brain.
“For a little while during the day, I tune out external distractions and focus on what is in front of me presently,” Gaea says. “Maybe it’s a stretch, but playing piano is like an active meditation for me with similar benefits.”
It’s not a stretch.
As Melissa Venditti writes in The Mindful Word: “When I play, I can feel the sensation of my fingers pressing against the keys or strings. I can become actively aware of my own emotional reaction to the music on a beat-by-beat basis.”
Others have noted the meditative, relaxing effect playing music has on their consciousness, a benefit of music study that may be particularly valuable to busy moms.
A connection to the past
Parent Alyse Gamson’s story is similar to Gaea’s. She signed up for lessons after becoming “completely entranced” while witnessing her son’s lessons. Now she enjoys the peace she’s found in playing.
“When I’m in a good practice rhythm and playing a song that I love, it immediately puts me in a wonderful, meditative state of mind,” Alyse says. “If it’s a classical piece, I’m completely enchanted and feel a connection with the past.”
Making time for learning
Unlike Gaea, Alyse had no experience with studying music before taking adult lessons. Initially her goal was to sight-read easy music. She then moved on to intermediate songs.
But life can easily get in the way of goals. With three kids under nine and a business to run, Alyse’s biggest challenge is universal: making time for practice.
“It’s important to practice regularly, ideally at least five times a week,” says Piano Power founder and director Abraham Levitan. “But the length of practice doesn’t matter nearly as much as regularity. So if all you can manage is five minutes a day, you can still progress if it’s a daily habit.”
For parent Mindy Ingersoll, knowing she’s investing money into lessons motivates regular practice.
“I’m not stressing out about finding time to practice, but at the same time I’m using ten minutes when dinner is cooking to play a little bit,” Mindy says. “Instead of checking Facebook I’m playing the guitar. It’s definitely a better use of my time.”
Reconnecting with songs you love
Choosing to learn favorite songs with a personal connection can help motivate practice. Learning the classics is wonderful. But like working out to a good mix, it’s the songs we really love that move us.
Learning easy versions of songs by her favorites (like Jason Mraz, Imagine Dragons, and Elvis Presley) was the jolt Alyse needed to make time for practice.
The accessibility of at-home lessons
Taking private lessons at home has been key for Gaea. She describes her son as “pokey” when it comes to leaving the house. Add that to the time-sucks of getting dressed, gathering supplies, and hustling in and out of buildings, lessons can quickly devolve into another chore.
With lessons at home, Gaea says, “It’s no longer an event. It’s just another thing we do, like eating our dinner or brushing our teeth.”
The most important thing to know about practice
Sometimes, you’re just not going to do it.
That doesn’t mean you should give up, or not take lessons at all. Parent Taryn Fisher says that flexibility is key to balancing work, family, and personal time.
“I am not going to pretend that I’m a poster-child for the ‘mom who does everything,’” Taryn says. “Accepting that this is something I am doing for myself– a treat, something to look forward to– is important. Which means not squeezing it into an already stressful day. But I’m also not putting it last after everyone else’s needs are met.”
Learning to learn again
Buddhist teacher and monk Suzuki Roshi said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Kids are masters of “beginner’s mind”. Constantly learning new things, they’re well-acquainted with being new to something. But adults? Our egos cringe at the sound of our own amateur playing.
“I do feel a little vulnerable as an adult not feeling like I’m entirely competent as I’m learning a new piece,” says parent Lindsey Harrington, who is also a middle-school teacher.
But rather than letting that feeling of incompetence stop her, Lindsey lets it deepen her compassion for herself and her students.
“It’s always good to remind myself of the various learning styles and give everyone, myself included, a bit of grace during the learning process,” says Lindsey. “It takes different people different lengths of time and a variety of methods to figure things out. It’s good to be reminded of that.”
Jacqueline Arrigo, a Piano Power teacher who also cares for her infant daughter, has played, taught, and performed piano for years. She recently started guitar lessons to challenge herself with a new instrument.
“[As a music student in college], I just never had the motivation to practice guitar, especially with my shiny piano sitting right there,” Jacqueline says. “But as a student now, it’s fun, challenging, and empowering to learn. In the end the goal is the same for me– to always be learning.”
As Taryn puts it, why do only what comes easily?
Creating community with family
As a new mom, Jacqueline struggles with “mom-guilt” and falling behind on chores. But she loves the ways music enriches her relationship to her daughter. It’s a benefit worth delaying the laundry for.
“Livvy loves music and always hangs out with me in our music room while I’m playing,” Jacqueline says. “She has her own mini-piano and other percussion instruments that keep her busy while I practice. I want her to be surrounded by music, and this is a perfect way to do it.”
Several moms mentioned playing with their kids, including songs their kids wrote for them. They report being delightfully surpassed in skill by their children. And they let lessons drive what the family listens to together.
Rekindling sparks with your spouse
After helping her husband find a guitar teacher, Mindy realized she wanted lessons, too. They’ve now found that playing together helps connect them as a couple.
“It’s hard to find time to practice at the same time, but when we do, we start laughing or smiling because we messed up,” Mindy says. “And it’s fun when my son walks in and wants to take out his guitar. He’s not taking lessons yet but it’s getting him interested.”
It goes to show that once someone in the family starts lessons, a passion for music begins to catch.
“My husband started taking piano lessons this year, and our youngest can’t wait for lessons,” Alyse says. “Music is such a gift. We hope to inspire our children so that they’ll want to learn instruments at a young age.”
Taryn grew up in a musical family. Her brother went to a music conservatory, her sister is a professional performer, and her parents play together as a duo. She easily envisions a family band in her future. Once the least confident musician in the family, now that prospect excites her.
Feeling like yourself again
Momhood is equal parts joy and pain, euphoria and exhaustion. What time we may have once had for soul-searching, creative expression, or intellectual pursuits, is replaced with caring for our kids.
“The creative part of me had been missing for almost a decade, and that can be a sad loss,” Taryn says. “Tapping back into making music has been so refreshing, like, ‘Oh, it’s nice to see creative Taryn again’.”
Before we become parents, we understand that parenting involves sacrifice. But when the sacrifice becomes real, seeping into our daily lives, we can begin to feel starved. Music lessons — with the social and introspective opportunities they offer– can be a marvelous antidote.