I took piano lessons for ten years, and violin for eight. My most memorable instrument teacher was a perpetually drunk Singaporean woman whose hair smelled like a fascinating combination of musk and scalp. She would shout, “Practice more! Practice MORE!” while banging her ring-adorned right hand on the side of my family’s beautiful grand piano, accentuating my hiccuping sonatas with her shrill voice. She spent downtime between my clunky scales by walking around my living room and peering too long at our framed family photos.
Every time I would open my front door and see her not-quite-symmetrical bob haircut and crazy eyes, I would think to myself, There is no way these lessons are worth it. I am never going to do anything with these stupid mustic skills. Maybe, just maybe, if I can distract this crazy lady for a second and make a quick dash, I can go join the circus or hitchhike to space camp or something. Do something meaningful with my life. Why doesn’t she teach me to play like Billy Joel? Why can’t I play the fiddle in a river band? My life sucks!
I never actually thought that any poor sap bangin’ on the keys or sawin’ on the strings out of their parents’ behest (and checkbook) could possibly turn those intense, smelly Suzuki method hours into something cool or meaningful. Hell, if I’d known that someone like SoCal’s classically-trained Paul Dateh could, two decades later, be rocking his violin like a jazzy axe, mixing up A Tribe Called Quest beats and Gnarls Barkley rhythms, and singing oh-so-sweetly… I would have practiced a whole lot more.
See what I mean:
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