Why Should I Take Piano Lessons?

by faculty member Noelle Davidson

“I don’t want to be a pianist when I grow up, so why do I need to take piano lessons?”

Pretty sound argument, if you ask me. Children are all about justice, and things being fair. How is it fair in a child’s mind for their parents to make them take piano lessons when they have told their parents over and over again that they’re going to be a professional gamer when they grow up? (Or, to be more ambitious, a firefighter, a doctor, an engineer, etc.) As parents who see the potential benefit of having musical skill and proficiency, it must feel hard and even hopeless at times to try and encourage an unwilling child to practice their piano. Should you listen to your child’s resisting as a sign that it’s “not mean for them”? Do you grin and bear it and relentlessly demand lessons and practice, with the fear you may actually be instilling an even deeper dislike?

I don’t have every answer, but I have one. You may not assume it–hearing my past musical accomplishments and knowing my current status as a piano performance major at BYU–but growing up, I honestly hated going to lessons. Like most students, I really loved playing those songs that I was really good at, of course. Some days it was like a broken record in my house (sorry mom), playing the same song over and over again. Maybe your child doesn’t have a problem with playing the piano while they’re at home. Maybe they really enjoy it. But maybe they really hate learning a new song, because they’re not good at it yet, and don’t we all dislike not being good at something?

Obviously, my career has taken the music path, and that’s something I pretty much always knew it would. So though I dreaded those laborious 2 hours of weekly lessons, the long drive there and back, and the starting process of a new piece I was no good at, I was blessed with the motivation of knowing that this was ultimately what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Aside from my own childish resentment of work and discipline, I had a passion for music, for performance and for perfecting a beautiful piece.
Which takes me back to my opening line: “I don’t want to be a pianist when I grow up, so why should I take lessons?”

Bear with me for a minute: if you research the lives of the most successful stock brokers in the market, you’ll find a repeated pattern of a history of musical education and talent. I remember my dad telling me about these millionaires who are also classical pianists or cellists in their spare time. I remember a Bishop of mine who was a very successful anesthesiologist who was also a very accomplished pianist. Research the lives of skilled surgeons, and you’ll find several with extensive musical history. Does your child want to be an actor instead? Ryan Gosling practiced piano 4 hours a day to be able to play the piano for the movie La La Land. Your child wants to be a brilliant genius? Albert Einstein was actually an expert violinist and pianist as well. Your child wants to be an astronaut? Neil Armstrong was a musician in his early life. Your child wants to be a politician? Former secretary of state Condolezza Rice and 33rd President of the United States Harry Truman were both very talented pianists.

The point is this: musical skill enhances and sharpens the mind, polishes hand-eye coordination and motor-skills (ability to move fingers with intended precision and accuracy), trains your ear to hear the smallest details, and improves your reading and comprehension abilities. All these benefits (and more) will help your child in any pursuit they set their heart on. They will stand above their peers, they will be more mature adults, they will be more focused students, and they will be much more grateful to you when they are old enough to look back and say a sincere ‘thank you’ for all the horrible lessons you put them through.

So next time your child asks you whyyyy in the world they have to take piano lessons, turn it around; ask them what they want to be when they grow up, and find a way to connect piano skills to the skills they’ll need in their dream career. Maybe show them some famous people in their desired field who are also musicians. Then wait patiently for the next 15 years until they’re away in college, about to graduate and enter their dream career, after some future day when they caught the attention of their future spouse by playing that beautiful Rachmaninoff Prelude, wait for that day they call you and thank you for putting them in lessons, and you finally hear those magic words, “you were right”.

Best of luck, and happy practicing!