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Things I Learned at the Music Festival

As I filled out the form for the year of music lessons, the boxes for festival and exams stared back at me. For about 2 seconds, then I immediately checked NO. I hated playing in the festival and exams as a kid. My son was just starting piano lessons. Why would my son want to do it? I didn’t want to scare him off.

Practice makes perfect.

At his Christmas recital, he mentioned he wanted to play in the festival. He had progressed so well with his lessons that I said okay he could get his teacher to enter him.

Secretly I was wondering how they managed to switch him at birth. He looks like me. He has some of the same temperament traits but he has something I don’t. A fearless streak. The child is not afraid of anything. Every new experience is an adventure to conquer. A thrill to be enjoyed. Some new thing to be learned and then filed away in the computer, known as his brain.

So for the last two days, we’ve been at the music festival. He was entered into two classes. His adjudicator was awesome. I remember some being gruff or detached. She was neither. She was kind, knowledgable and had some encouraging things to say to the kids. She was dressed in black except for the red heels. I liked her immediately.

As I sat there and listened to the trilling of the piano I learned a few things myself:

1. Kids are brave. Every single kid that got up there and played their instrument or sang a song, showed extraordinary courage. She told them they “were brave to be here”. So true. Most kids are naturally brave…until fear takes hold. Where did it come from? we wonder. Sometimes it came from us. How many times have we stopped our kids from doing something beneficial, because truthfully, we were the ones scared? For their safety, for their feelings being hurt, for their being rejected. For failure. So we held them back and taught them fear instead of courage. Agh! Instead we need to encourage that bravery and not let our own fears rule our parenting.

At the ROM in Toronto, ON.  They loved putting on the armour.
At the ROM in Toronto, ON. They loved putting on the armour.

2. Not every child will win a prize but they are all winners. All five of the kids in my child’s class got marks over 80. They are first prize marks. But there were only three kids who took home ribbons. The adjudicator told them they were all winners. It wasn’t just a bunch words, placating egos. They were all winners. Their marks proved it. What really made them winners was their participation. They had entered the contest and then did the work needed. They had performed, battling nerves and fear. They had tried. We don’t always need to have a prize to know that we are winners.

3. “Every time you play, you learn something.” That’s what she told them. Truth. Every time we decide to join the game, whether that means taking a real interest in our kids’ lives, making the extra effort in our marriages or trying something new or different, we can learn something. Just because we are adults, doesn’t mean we have to stop growing. There’s always something else with which to grapple. To pull out truth. To apply to our lives.

4. We were all brave kids at some point. It’s easy to forget. To get trapped in our ruts and fears. As I’ve sat and thought about myself as a kid, I had some fearless moments too. When it came to ballet, no one could stop me. Every dancing class or exam, I did on my own. None of my friends danced. For the first time ever, I didn’t have my twin. I was on my own but I went ahead and did it. We all have those moments. Those scary moments that we thought we’d never live through but would die if we didn’t try. The auditions. The tryouts. The exams. Camp. As adults we’ve all too often forgotten those blissful, adrenaline pumping moments when we were unstoppable. Fearless. Brave. Everyday life wears us down. Makes us forgetful. We need to remember those moments of our childhood. And make a few more memories as adults.

My dancing shoes. My treasure.

5. Don’t just stick to List A, B, C. Go play some other music not on your list. The adjudicator was talking about playing not just the pieces assigned to you but others in the book, that were not. I think sometimes we get caught up in our lists A, B, C and forget to turn the pages and see what else there is for us. What if we did turn the page and try that piece of music not assigned to us? What if we sought out something new and different? Things/people we ruled out because they weren’t on our list but just maybe we might like if we gave it/them a try?


6. The arts are a wonderful gift to be shared with others. Don’t be afraid. Go out and bravely share your gift. You’ll be fulfilled and you will touch other people’s lives in ways you can’t imagine. And then turn the page and go try something new. Go to a ballet or an opera. The symphony. Take a painting class. Write some poetry. Share the outcome or the experience. Your life will be richer for it.

Mark passing on some of his talent and knowledge.