#5 How it all started – 1

My mom told me I asked for piano lessons when I was 5. I faintly remember, I asked my mom for piano lessons on my birthday (…?), but lessons didn’t last long, because I didn’t practice.

I was in the school choir between 6 to 10 years old – an experience I am grateful for, because it taught me how to sing harmonies – extremely useful for all the bands I play with. The only song I remember from choir is All Things Bright and Beautiful by John Rutter. I still hum this song from time to time.

I also remember a humiliating experience from a choir practice: in the middle of rehearsal, the teacher was working with one of the sections, and the rest of us were supposed to sit quietly and wait. I was so into the music, and didn’t realize I was whispering my part along. Suddenly, the girl who say next to me glared at me with disdain. My ears turned red, but I couldn’t go anywhere. Looking back, I didn’t know why I felt so embarrassed – was I singing too loud? I sang out of tune? Because I didn’t keep quiet? I guess it was strange I forgot others were around me. What’s worse was I had to sit next to her for the rest of the semester.

My brother signed up for violin lessons when he was 6 (he is one year younger than me). I don’t know how it started, but I remember taking the violin over (not by force), happily playing what he just practiced on. I didn’t know how to read music then, and I was picking up the tunes by ear. Naturally I also signed up violin lessons. I played violin until I came to the States for college at the age of 19.

Much later in life, I have learned that the critical period for acquiring perfect pitch was 6 years old. My brother has perfect pitch, but I don’t, even though we started roughly at the same time – he was 6 and I was 7!

In Elementary training for musicians, Hindemith wrote about his exercises for training perfect pitch:

“… This experiment may at first fail frequently enough, but after eighty or a hundred attempts a fairly firm and reproducible impression of A must be established. If not, the question may be raised whether there is any musical gift at all in a mind that cannot learn to remember and compare pitches…”

Sorry Maestro.

(To be continued on How it all started 2.)

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