Not so long ago, I had a beautiful little child join one of my inclusive piano classes. Karen was extremely timid, greatly lacked confidence, and was terrified of speaking out and sharing eye contact. She was consistently on edge and had little self-worth. After finding out more detailed information from her mum, I discovered that she was also quiet at home. Even though she had a soft, reticent personality, she was incredibly loving and helpful at home. She helped. She worked. She tidied. She snuggled. She shared. And loved. Her mum was quite anxious about her lack of confidence and low self-esteem and considered piano classes to potentially enhance her social skills and self-worth. For the first few weeks, Karen did not speak or lock eyes with me, or anyone else. She worked quietly on her piano tasks and responded to my instructions by reciting scales, arpeggios, finger exercises, and melodies as best she could. Her little 7-year-old fingers were delicately bone-like. Tiny, yet fierce. They danced across the black and white keys with grace, beauty and determination. Karen worked at achieving such skill. I was happy. Proud. I never ever thought about the lack of eye contact nor the lack of conversation between us. The music was enough.
I think Karen appreciated the fact that I did not dwell on this lacking. She liked me. I liked her back. In fact, my heart danced when she came in for class. I was excited for her progress. Her signature melodic structures grew more fabulous week by week.
Another child in the same piano class didn’t have the same natural music flair as Karen. She found it hard to sequence notes, maintain rhythmic accuracy, and recognize note values. I politely asked Karen one day if she would offer some support and guidance. With a nod of the head and an unforced smile, she approached Emily, sat beside her, looked her directly in the eyes and starting teaching her. She demonstrated a short melodic line with ease, comfort and support. She demonstrated again, this time, slower, bringing Emily’s attention to the correct fingering and note values. Karen reassuringly invited Emily to play the little melody. Emily played. Almost perfectly. Emily played again. This time perfectly. They were both ecstatic. They were proud. Happy. Through collaborative efforts they achieved. Karen continues to be my piano student. She is a beautiful pianist and an even greater teacher, friend, converser, and child.