I started piano lessons when I was six years old. In my opinion, that’s a bit young but the reason I started so young was the fact that my mom knew there was some “natural, God-given ability” there.
I would come home from church and sit down and play the songs I’d just heard my mom play at church. When my mom asked me how I did that, my response was “I don’t know; I just hear it.” Mom wanted to get me trained correctly, as soon as possible.
My first piano teacher was Mrs. Dunn. She lived in Greenwood. I fell in love with her from the very first lesson we had. Mrs. Dunn didn’t know that I played by “ear”. Mrs. Dunn would assign me songs to practice each week and then, in order to encourage me, she would “play” the new songs for me.
Little did she know, that was a mistake because after I heard it, I didn’t have to practice; didn’t need to learn to “read” the music notes, etc. I knew how it went and that was that. She thought she had a child prodigy on her hands.
It took Mrs. Dunn a while to catch on, but one day, after she assigned me new songs for the following week, she closed the book. I said “Aren’t you going to play it for me?” She opened the book back up and said “Why don’t you read the notes and you play it for me?” The gig was up! For the next 2-3 years, Mrs. Dunn did not let me play by ear at all. If I didn’t read it, I didn’t play it. If I started making up notes, she would make me stop and read the notes.
Not fun but I am so thankful she stayed on me like she did. I could only go so far on my musical journey without learning how to “read the map” so to speak.
After years with Mrs. Dunn, she recommended me to move on to another teacher who could further advance me in my skills. I learned so much from each teacher I took lessons from- strength in my left hand by playing Rachmaninoff from my teacher in Shreveport; gospel runs from Mrs. Macheeca; each teacher had a different and profound impact on my skills. My final stop was Dr. Glenda Collins. What a dream she was. There were times, I will admit, when I wouldn’t practice like I should, but I had “natural, God-given” talent, so surely I could fake Dr. Collins out.
Wrong! I would play 10 notes and she would stop me and say, “that was wrong. Play it again.” I would try to play again and she would say, “let’s not waste our time. You haven’t practiced so let’s move on.” Harsh, you may think. No. That would build a fire under me to go home and practice until my fingers bled. I learned valuable lessons from my “not always succeeding.”
Fast forward to having children of my own. I made lots of mistakes as a parent, but one thing we tried to instill in our kids is to always do their very best in everything they did and once they committed to doing something, they followed through.
This isn’t always easy to see your kids endure. We watched our kids try at things and fail. They had broken hearts and, at times, felt defeated...but really, they didn’t fail at all. For you see, it’s in the “trying and never giving up” that valuable lessons are learned. Every experience in life can teach valuable tools to be used at some point down the road.
There is a poem by William F. O’Brien that speaks to this. We should always set our expectations high but if we (or those we love) don’t reach our goals, that doesn’t mean we failed. We learn from what we went through and use it as fuel to never give up and to continue on.
So, whether we are trying a new hobby, finding a new career path during these uncertain times, helping raise grandchildren, whatever the case may be, remember this: “I’d rather try and fail than never try at all.” Keep on, keepin’ on, my friends! “Endeavoring to persevere” is always a good thing to do.
”Some say risk nothing, try only for the sure thing,
Others say nothing gambled nothing gained,
Go all out for your dream.
Life can be lived either way, but for me,
I’d rather try and fail, than never try at all, you see.
Some say “Don’t ever fall in love,
Play the game of life wide open,
Burn your candle at both ends.”
But I say “No! It’s better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all, my friend.”
When many moons have gone by,
And you are alone with your dreams of yesteryear,
All your memories will bring you cheer.
You’ll be satisfied, succeed or fail, win or lose,
Knowing the right path you did choose.” William F. O’Brien