He has it all and doesn't know it
"We believe he's very musical",
his mum tells me on the phone.
"He's always been drawn to music. We're looking
for a kind teacher, so he can enjoy the piano,
not become a professional."
She tells me about her 9-year-old son Tim
and his previous experiences at the piano,
which include about two years of lessons with
a teacher whom she describes as "strict".
Tim ended up crying at every lesson.
After some time, he stopped going to piano,
about one and a half years ago.
I make the math in my head.
That must mean he started playing when he was 5 or 6 years old.
We arrange a trial lesson,
and a few days later there they are, on my doorstep.
He's a small, sensitive child, entering my study shyly,
his mum smiling right behind him. She sits down to listen.
I ask Tim if we sould start on the piano right away and he agrees.
He's sitting at the piano and I ask him the first question:
"So, what do you like to play when you play the piano at home?"
He answers: "I don't know how to play the piano."
Cue break of my heart.
"Well, you surely try some things out at home?"
"I don't know how to play",
It's too obvious that this can't be true, and at
the same time, there's no point in arguing with
a 9 year-old about his musical skills.
I decide to improvise with him and see what happens.
"Shall we play something together on the piano?"
"But I don't know anything."
There it is again.
I start to grasp the level of influence of his former teacher,
and also the courage it must have taken him to ask for piano
"Oh, but we will just play anything now.
Look, it's very simple. Each of us
will play just one note"
I sit next to him at the piano, on my chair.
He plays a note. I play another.
I tell him to listen about how when
he changes his note, my note will sound different.
We do this for a while. Then I decide to shake it up,
offer some more notes, more movement,
listen to his reaction.
He knows instantly what to do. He corresponds,
moves more, plays louder, plays softer.
He plays. We keep going. We just play. He's opening up.
He's listening and reacting.
He's playing beautifully.
We let the music go where it wants to go, until,
at some point, it dies out. Then we sit in silence.
"That was beautiful",
I say. "Thank you."
He nods. "I liked that"
, he says and smiles to himself.
By then I know I can start doing different
exercises with him. We go up and down the keyboard.
He can change things easily when I ask him to.
Then we turn to the inside of the piano.
What happens inside the piano when we strike a key?
We talk and explore. I ask him questions and he responds.
He asks me questions and I respond.
Then we play a song and sing together.
Then, we're done. We're good for today.
His mum asks him, would he like it if I became his new
piano teacher? He says yes.
He's a bit shy about it. We break into giggles.
I'm happy about Tim becoming my new student.
I have a soft spot for players who have everything
they need to be good musicians, but think
the opposite is the case. My own musical career
was bumpy enough that I know: anyone can learn anything
in their own time if presented with the tools suited for them.
I see them; Tim and his mum out the door,
feeling privileged for the job I have:
goling along fellow musicians on their path is
the most fascinating aspect of my work.
I look forward to accompanying Tim on this part of
his discovery journey.
Maria Busqué teaches Resonance
Training in Berlin and Barcelona.
This work supports musicians in finding more ease and
flow in their playing/singing, with a richer and more
resonant sound as a result.
She combines this with her career as a harpsichord player.
You can visit her HelloStage profile,
her website or connect
with her on Twitter.