Susanna Tracy

Practice Makes Perfect

Riding in the back seat of my mother’s station wagon, I could barely contain the excitement bubbling inside of me. I was on my way to my first piano lesson. My mother turned onto a quiet, tree-lined, dead end street, and the two of us walked up to the door of a plain brown Cape. She rang the doorbell as I fidgeted anxiously, waiting to see who my teacher was. A tall, elderly woman opened the door and ushered us inside. I quickly sat down at the piano bench as she began teaching me how to read notes and maneuver my hands around the keys. By the end of the lesson, I was able to play an awkward, clunky version of “Ode to Joy,” but recognizable nonetheless.

The next day I was playing a board game in my bedroom when I heard a knock at the door. My mother entered, informing me that it was time to practice the piano. Practice? This concept was ridiculous to me, and naturally I refused. However, the threat of having my precious television time taken away forced me to comply with my mother’s request. I grudgingly dragged myself over to the piano and began to play the assigned piece of the week. Immediately after finishing the song, I attempted to escape, but my mother sat me down once again and made me play the song over and over. The excitement of piano lessons swiftly diminished as I realized the torturous practice that went along with them.

Angry at my mother for depriving me of play time, I resisted taking on the challenges each new piece would bring. Instead of the fun and excitement I had imagined, I was constantly frustrated when I did not progress at the rate I had anticipated. Practicing became a form of punishment, making it impossible to see any of its benefits. While most of my friends were playing outside or watching television right after school, I had to endure thirty minutes of torture before joining them. Still, despite my whining, my mother never gave up encouraging and sometimes pushing me to practice. “You’ll thank me later,” she would always tell me, but at five years old, I refused to believe her.

Finally, the time for my first recital came. All of my pieces were thoroughly practiced and memorized, and I was confident that my performance would go well. Walking onto the stage, I heard my teacher remind me one last time to keep playing despite a mistake. I sat down on the bench and solidly played my three songs just how I had practiced them. As I stood up and bowed, satisfied with my performance, I saw my family among the audience, proudly applauding. At that moment I forgot about all the hours spent repeating pieces, going to lessons and missing my favorite television shows; all I felt was the joy and fulfillment because I had accomplished something well.

As the years went on, I gradually became more disciplined and no longer needed my mother to tell me to practice or to guide me through each note. Slowly, I realized all of the ways I benefited from continuing with piano lessons, and I learned the value of perseverance. This began to show through in my study habits, because I learned to efficiently organize my time and set goals for myself. Studying for an exam is similar to practicing for a recital, because you must pace and budget enough time to prepare slowly. These benefits helped me appreciate my mother’s encouragement, and I finally understood what she meant when she told me that I would thank her one day.

Because of my dedication and hard work, I was able to arrive at a point where I enjoyed playing, despite the occasional struggle, and truly develop as a musician. Although I used to think my mother was out to “ruin my life,” I now realize she was actually trying to teach me the valuable lesson of perseverance. Looking back, I know I would have quit piano had my mother not pushed me to continue, which is why I am so thankful today, even though sometimes I might still hate admitting it.


Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.