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Should I make my 9 year-old quit the piano?

The goal of learning piano is to perform.

Asked to me on Quora

Should I make my 9 year-old quit the piano? She is gifted and says she wants to continue, but the piano is negatively affecting her mood 60-80% of the time (tantrums, name-calling). Her teacher is brilliant, but a perfectionist.

Hi Allison,

I shuddered a little at the word “perfectionist.”

Having spent my life playing and teaching piano (and building/writing the curriculum for Pianu.com), I’ve learned that a student’s mindset towards the instrument is the most important part of the learning process.

Your 9-year old might be incredibly gifted, but this gift will be ruined by the perfectionism of her teacher.

I don’t say that to be dramatic – perfectionism can ruin talent in any instrument because:

1.) it’s training her to see and hear the music through a mindset of fear

2.) there’s no such thing as a “perfect” performance anyway.

Rather than encouraging musical expression and showing her the joy of playing piano, she’s being scolded to fear wrong notes.

And from what you’ve described it sounds like she’s already internalizing this fear into tantrums and name-calling.

Her piano teacher may in fact be brilliant, but I would ask: are they currently performing professionally? Are they actively playing around town in ensembles or as a soloist? Are they participating in a musical community that shares music to an audience?

Or – much more likely – have they left their performance career far behind them.

The goal of learning piano is to perform. A piano teacher who fears performing will teach your daughter how to fear performing.

Which will have lasting damaging effects.

I spent my time as teacher helping students play songs they love, and wanted to play, and watched them come alive.
Notes were corrected and suggestions given, but I lead by example through performance and musicality.

That’s what a good teacher should do always.

What you learn as a professional pianist is that no audience member cares about “perfect” but they do care if the performer is feeling anxious and fearful. It all comes through the notes.

I’d recommend finding a teacher who 1. still actively performs around town and 2. has experience not just in classical but in jazz.

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