Piano Practice…"Family that practices together stays together!"
Cute little Louis… my morning practice partner. He doesn’t stay in my lap the whole time, but when he does, we have 8 of the 9 in our family, all on the piano practicing at once. Well to be fair, actually all 9 of us are at a piano at the same time each day, dad is just in a different location, tuning in someone’s home, while the 7 kids and I are practicing at the piano store each morning. So here’s how piano practice looks for our family… we race out of the house like a tornado at 6:25 AM to arrive at the piano store by 6:30. (disclaimer… no we do not hit that deadline with perfection daily, but we are getting our percentage up and keep trying for perfect weeks) Once we arrive, everyone piles out of the van and goes to their practice locations throughout the piano conservatory.
Abby and Ben both use the private grand piano lesson rooms used by the Piano Academy upstairs in the conservatory. The rest of us go to the digital group classroom that has a grand piano at the front. I practice at the grand piano (with Louis helping of course), while Thayne, Briggy Jr., Joshie and Joseph each pick one of the 7 digitals to play on. From my piano bench at the front, I can keep an eye on each of them practicing. We all get started together with “check seat position & pray” as it is listed at the top of our Utah Piano Conservatory lesson sheets. Then we can each mark that off and move on to our Hymn practice, then technique, scales, lesson books & solo repertoire pieces.
My piano practice time is pretty choppy because the boys come up to the grand piano each time they have a question or have a scale, Hannon, song or memorization to pass off. They get help, play their piece, get stickers or smileys and then return to their digitals. Before they’ve got their headphones back on, a new brother is usually up at the grand piano taking his turn with getting help from mama. Occasionally, I get a free 5 minute spurt to work on my current solo piece, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring… I LOVE that song!!
My Preschool Piano Academy students, Joshie and Joseph, usually only last for piano practice of about 15 minutes. Then they pull out their coloring supplies and play with Louis on the floor of the group piano lesson room while I and the older two brothers finish our full hour of practice. Ben usually bursts through the door at 7:29 telling us all it’s time to go. As we load out to the van with our huge basket full of piano binders and music bags, we can still hear Abby’s fingers whirling away on the grand piano upstairs. She always is begging for a few more minutes and comes running while we are all waiting in the van, wondering if we’ll have to go call her down again.
As we drive away, I ask for a quick summary from each child about how their practice went. I get varying degrees of enthusiastic reporting, begging for praise and recognition, mingled with little to no commentary or sarcasm & humor. We make commitments to arrive earlier (if we were tardy) and try even harder the next day and so the cycle circles on each day. I try very hard to conclude our brief summary chat with some comment about the “why” behind our daily piano practice routine. I want them to know my heart and our purpose as parents in sharing music with them. (a few of them aren’t convinced and still just think we are out to torture them… they will come around though).
Below is the long version of the short comments I conclude with each day as we drive away from our piano practice sessions. It is a letter that I share with each new family that joins Utah Piano Conservatory. It encapsulates my heart, the mission I am compelled to share with my children and with our conservatory community. It is the driving force that propels me out of bed each morning to get seven children up, dressed, fed, prepared and out the door to practice by 6:25. I hope that it is meaningful to you and is a reminder of why music is worthy of priority investment, both our time & money. I have seen the blessings of sacrifices we have made, for music education, and I know many more fruits are on the horizon from the foundation we are laying. Here is the letter to our conservatory families…
A Letter from the DirectorDear Conservatory Families- As defined by Webster in 1828, a conservatory is a place for the preservation of a desired state, and the assurance that something of great value is not lost, does not experience decay or injury, and is not wasted. Applied to our efforts with music education, this title for our piano school helps to encapsulate the vision of Utah Piano Conservatory. We are not only in the business of providing “lessons”–rather we are devoting the entire mission of our family, our business, our whole lives and daily efforts to preserving the art of complete musicianship, and then sharing that gift abundantly. This all-out effort to elevate the state of music in individuals, families and our community is founded upon a desire to glorify God and to give thanks to Him for the talents, blessings and opportunities he has abundantly given to each of us. The Utah Piano Conservatory is devoted to building pianists who are raised up in both TALENT and TESTIMONY, the two pillars of instruction for each of our conservatory programs. I encourage our faculty and our entire community of conservatory families to take heed from the Book of Mormon passage in Nephi 32:9 “But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always… that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” Performance opportunities–when combined with prayer and the guidance of the spirit–can refine an individual in unique ways, whether in the practice room or the performance hall. Our family has selected music as the specific tool for helping our children develop not only their talents, but also the interwoven qualities that come from exercising that daily habit, including: self-discipline, respect, refinement, work ethic, service, time-management, self-government, gratitude, sensitivity, spirituality and obedience. Hence our conservatory tag line, “Tuning hearts through music”, which builds upon the roots of our family business. It all began with a single piano tuning hammer in 1995 and has become what you now see today housed in our beautiful 23,500 SF building, home to Brigham Larson Pianos and Utah Piano Conservatory. As we partner with faculty and parents alike to shape musicians in both talent and testimony, my hope is that we all can draw nearer to Christ by remembering to place Him at the foundation of all we do through practice, performance and service through music. May we each become instruments in the hands of God and in gratitude praise Him as Bach did, as he penned on every blank page prior to composing, “Soli Deo Gloria” (Glory to God alone). Praying and cheering for each of our musicians, Karmel Larson Director at Utah Piano Conservatory