One of the first things we did after moving down here, last year, was to start the kids in piano lessons. It was something we’d talked about for a long time, and logistics just never seemed to work out when we lived up north, but we have a highly-recommended teacher nearby, here, and so we were finally able to get them started.
Now, when we first went to the studio, one of the first things the teacher asked me was if the children have “a decent instrument” at home on which to practice. “Sure!” I said. “We have an electric keyboard!” (I did not mention that the kids love to set it to piccolo and play “hot cross buns” until I stab a pen into my eardrum.)
“And that’s a full-size?” He asked me, leaning forward as if we were discussing a peace treaty.
“It’s… ummm… about this big…?” I held out my hands, and he all but smacked his forehead.
The keyboard in question, you see, has only 61 keys. And how can I POSSIBLY expect my children to become MUSICIANS if they don’t have a PROPER INSTRUMENT, he wanted to know.
I resisted the urge to tell him that I was not looking for musicians, but perhaps just for something that would keep my son’s fingers out of his nose for a few minutes at a time. Instead, I told him that I wasn’t sure if the kids would truly stick with it, and that if we got to a year of lessons and they were still going strong, that THEN I would consider investing in a real piano.
He eyed me with suspicion but agreed to give it a year.
Guess how long the kids have been taking piano?
“Hey, Mir, I meant to tell you,” he started out, last week, “But I’ve decided to sell my spare electronic piano. It’s like the one in the outer part of the studio there—weighted action, sustain pedal—and I thought I’d see if you were interested in it.”
“Sure, maybe,” I said. “How much are you selling it for?”
“Eight hundred dollars,” he said. At least, I think that’s what he said. I began choking on my tongue after “eight hundred.” It’s possible he was looking for eight hundred camels, but really, either way it was out of my league.
“I’m hoping to find something for under five hundred,” I finally managed to say.
“Awwww, come on now,” he said. “You know a good electronic piano that’s got the weighted keys is going to cost more than that. I mean, we could probably find you an upright for under five, but if you want to go electronic, you’re going to need to spend more.”
“Yes, well, unless YOU want to buy us a piano, that’s where I’m at. We have to go electronic because it needs to go upstairs and I don’t want to deal with getting a real piano up there, and beyond $500 is out of my budget right now.”
He chuckled, and I chuckled, and he was thinking “stingy bitch who doesn’t understand the importance here” and I was thinking “pushy bastard who thinks I’m made of money.” We adore one another, truly.
“Hey MOM,” piped up Chickadee, in the wake of this exchange. “That piece I was practicing this week? It doesn’t even HAVE some of the keys I need to play it!” The piano teacher perked up and nodded, gesturing at my daughter as if to say “See? DO YOU SEE HOW THE INNOCENT CHILD SUFFERS?”
I rolled my eyes and retreated to the parents’ chair with my book. Hmph.
A week went by, and I began to wonder if perhaps I could convince him to drop the price on the piano he was selling. So we went in for lessons and I said, “Hey, have you sold your piano yet?”
“Oh yeah, it’s gone,” he said. “It went fast, an instrument of that quality for that price,” he added, meaningfully. “Why? You finally buying something for the kids?”
I sighed. “I told you, I’m looking for something for them. But I need to find something for around $500.”
“Well, the music store downtown has a weighted-action Yamaha on sale for $595. You should go look at that one!” he said. “It’s not bad at all.”
“I’m sure it’s not, but I need to find something for around $500.”
“You need to quit whining and scrape up another hundred dollars and go buy THAT ONE,” he laughed. For a moment I could actually picture the immense satisfaction that would come with picking up my MacBook and smacking him across the face with it. Instead my fingers may have twitched on the case, a bit, but I smiled and chuckled.
“Hey MOM,” said Chickadee, “You could use that money from that new contract!” She beamed, turning to her teacher. “Mom’s gonna get a bunch of money for this thing—”
“CHICKADEE,” I interrupted, as it dawned on me that she’d eavesdropped on a discussion Otto and I had had about a new job I’m taking, “Why don’t you show Mr. Piano Teacher how GREAT you can play that piece that you practiced for five whole minutes this week!” It was a low blow, and her eyes narrowed at me.
But the discussion of a keyboard was tabled. For the moment.
During her lesson I sat with my computer perched on my knees, surfing Craigslist for an electronic piano, and found a promising option at a local consignment shop. Of course, we went to go see it last night and it was gone. Hmph. So we went to the music store to see the $595 Yamaha.
That doesn’t include the stand, by the way. Or the bench. Or taxes, of course. In fact, by the time we left I wasn’t really sure the black keys were included, either… those may have been extra.
In conclusion, I’m a horrible mother who refuses to use my many buckets of money to buy my children a suitable piano. Because it will be so much BETTER for them to refuse to practice on a really nice piano than the refusing to practice which they currently do on the crappy keyboard.