I was seven years old. We were riding in the van when Daddy turned the radio station to the classical station. Every once and a while he wanted Kandace and me to listen to classical music. He said that it broadened our minds. The piece playing was a riveting piano solo. I listened in wonder. Daddy turned his head slightly so his voice would easily meet my ears.
“Isn’t that beautiful? Would you like to play the piano? One day you could play like that.”
I didn’t answer. I doubted that I could ever play anything as awe-inspiring even if I practiced forever. Piano lessons began when I was eight-year-old. My piano teacher, was pleasantly surprised at my ability to play chords and scales with ease. I wasn’t the quickest of learners, but I tried hard. One of my greatest fears was to embarrass myself in front of my teacher. At Christmastime, Mama scheduled me to play at church. I begged her not to make me play. Her big brown eyes turned cool.
“Katy, you will never overcome your fear until you face it.”
I was dressed in a velvet dress and my straight hair was brushed until it shown. I shook with nervousness as I opened my piano book and sat on the squeaky bench. I played “Mary, Did You Know?” I did well. Everyone clapped and I swelled with pride. Maybe Mama was right. Many other little girls and boys took piano lessons, but their mommies never made them play in church. They told Mama that their children were just too afraid. My Daddy and Mama always told me that parents who let their children succumb to fear of performing ultimately teach their children that there is indeed something to fear. At the moment, with my little knees shaking together, I was frustrated with my parents for insisting I play, but when it was all over – even when years had passed – I was grateful that they had pushed me. Whether it is in music, athletics, public speaking or any other number of activities, I learned that practice was important, but performing was just as important. Performing in front of a crowd of loud fans or a silent audience develops a whole new and unchartered territory of the brain. Yet, for me, it brought a grin to me face and inspiration to my heart I would have never known otherwise.
Children are brimming with abilities and talents that many parents have never even tapped into. Discover your children's gifts and develop them. One of the most crippling things a parent can do is agree with their child that they can't or shouldn't do what they do for other people. That may seem to temporarily appease the child, but years later, they will still live with an irrational fear. I am not saying that a child needs to be drug to church and put on the stage, screaming and crying to play or sing a song they don't even really know. I am saying when a child is ready to perform and there is nothing but shyness and fear holding them back, then they should still play. Don't be fooled. A basketball player should play with a team even if he still misses lots of shots. Don't be fooled, that a violinist shouldn't play until he or she never ever makes a mistake or is in book level 10. Now is the time. Their hearts long to know that their parents believe in them right now even when they have far to go.
Robin Wolaver wrote a book on this very subject (click here to see it). It was truthfully one of the best books I have ever read. She pushed her children until they stood in the Juilliard School of Music and formed the Annie Moses Band and performed on the world's finest stages.
I don't know much about Juilliard, but I do know that it never killed me to be challenged, not just to practice, but to perform.
"How can one shoot for the stars if one has never seen the sky?" ~ Robin Wolaver
Don't block their sky.