Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

How To Get and Keep Kids Interested In Concert Music – Part Nine

How to Get and Keep Kids interested in Concert Music | Robert Greenberg

Lillian and Daniel with their Grandfather Rich with my New York Steinway D

Suggestion number nine for getting and keeping our kids interested in music: acquire a piano.

The medium-to-long-term denizens of his site have heard this particular song before, though I will repeat it, because like any good tune, repetition breeds familiarity and perhaps even affection, and I need us all to like what I’m about to propose.

Acquire a piano. Yes.

Some personal background. When I walk into someone’s house, there are two things that are guaranteed to make me feel immediately at home: a piano and books. Admittedly (if painfully), books are an increasing rarity, so perhaps I should be satisfied with a Kindle in every corner. But a piano; well, that’s another story. The presence of a piano in a house tells a story: a story of striving forward through lessons; of house-hold music making; of sonic joys and alternative realities; of a pianistic repertoire endless and sublime. That’s what the presence of a piano says about a home, and it’s as sexy as Sophia Loren in latex.

Speaking of the pianos: it doesn’t have to be a 10’2” Fazioli” F308 (list price around 200k); nor even my personal piano of choice, a New York Steinway “D” (at 8’ 11¾” and 1000 pounds) ; frankly, a console or spinet will do. Put it in a place where the kids can bang on it without making the rest of the family crazy. When it’s time for piano lessons (at age 6 or 7; no need to rush) the piano will thus be an old friend and not a device of torture and discipline. And speaking of lessons: no one is ever too old to take piano lessons. Mom or dad (or grandma or grandpa, whomever) should think about taking lessons and practicing together with the kids. It is – seriously – a bonding experience like no other.

For our information: a “piano” is made out of wood, metal, leather and felt. It breathes. It is real. Its mechanism follows – analogously – the will of the player’s body. For all of its mechanical flaws and environmental sensitivities, a piano is real. However, technology (in the name of portability and convenience) has created a bestial if seductive thing called an electric keyboard. An electric keyboard is to a piano what an inflatable doll is to living, breathing partner: a poor substitute.

An electric keyboard is made out of plastic and circuitry. It is not real. It does not breath. Yes; it can make many different sounds. But then so can a cat in a microwave: does sonic variety justify putting poor Teddy into a microwave and setting it/him on “defrost”? Admittedly, apartment dwellers might not have room for an acoustic piano, not even a little spinet, at which point an electric keyboard becomes, tragically, the only solution. But space notwithstanding, try to start your child on a real piano – somewhere, somehow – and then move her over to an electric instrument once she has experienced the real thing. Because no matter how sophisticated it is, an electric instrument is still (and always will be) just a toy, whereas an acoustic instrument – no matter how mean or small it may be – is a member of the family.