I took piano lessons through my teenage years, but I was a bad student. With much shame to say, I didn’t practice much. Maybe I spent too much time playing basketball? Time seemed to have passed by so quickly, and the next lesson always came before I could find time to practice. My parents would use video game time in exchange for practice time, but apparently that didn’t work.
I did take a few Royal School piano exams. I remember taking the grade 3 exam with my younger brother, back to back on the same day. The passing grade was 100, and my brother passed – he got 100, but I got 99. I must have really annoyed the examiners to fail me by just one point. Or maybe they want to be “encouraging” and let me know I was “so close”. My family always thought my brother and I must have both done poorly, but they have decided to spare the younger one.
Of course, my laziness bites back hard. I became a music major, and eventually a theory teacher, but I am one of the few theory teachers who cannot play the piano. Give me a chord progression, and maybe I can make something up and fuzz my way through. But put a score in front of me, and I would just embarrass myself.
Not having taken piano lessons seriously was one of the biggest regrets of my life. Especially I have learned later that the “father of classical guitar” Francisco Tarrega was also a pianist. Maybe my tremolo would be better had I trained my fingers on the piano more? I tried to compensate and devoted more time in my undergraduate years on the piano, but it just never got better. I have passed the critical period.
I remember only two pieces from my teenager piano lessons, one of them was waltz #6 from Valses Poeticos by Enrique Granados, and the other was Golliwogg’s Cakewalk by Claude Debussy. I think they were both pieces from the grade 6 piano exam. The whole Valses Poeticos set was a popular piece for classical guitar students at IU, and I remember being surprised to hear waltz #6 played on the guitar. I quickly rekindled my love for waltz #6, and also fell in love with the whole piece. And it was dedicated to Joaquín Malats! I tried to learn the other movements on the piano (you can imagine how it went), and eventually I played the guitar duo version – fulfilling a dream with a little help from my friend Tom Torrisi.