A 14-year-old student brought a copy of Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 9 #2 to the lesson last week and asked if he could learn it. He said he was prepared and willing to take the whole year. You’ll have surmised by now that this is beyond what I think (know?) he can do. It’s probably 3 grades harder than both his reading and technical ability.
In the past I would have lovingly and gently suggested we wait a while, but this time I swallowed hard and said, “Sure.” Here’s why.
He had a rough first decade of life. Besides his mom, I was the only constant in his life. Like any normal kid, he had to be reminded and nagged to practice all these years but he loves music and he and his mom stuck with it.
Last year something clicked. He kept digging up, buying, and listening to more and more music – mostly popular genres – and working hard. He made tremendous progress, even with just a keyboard to practice one – an instrument that has hampered the development of a good technique.
The surprise last week was that he now wants to do all this difficult classical music. This Nocturne is a demo on his keyboard. His copy of the music is in a very small font (I swear it’s not just my age talking here) and the pages are tissue-thin. I’ll have to get him another copy.
So – the first 4 bars – a chord progression that recurs throughout the piece. He has the piece in his ears – so it’s a matter of breaking the music down into the main elements – melody, bass line and chords – then learning them alone and in every possible combination. I’m kind of dreading getting to the last page but at 4 bars a week this can be put off for some time. Actually – just thinking out loud here – a good idea might be to use that LONG RH repeated 4-note figure as a technical exercise – starting today.
I have to say, too, that something else played into my positive response. One of my readers has shared a bit of his musical journey with me – after a hiatus of more than 3 decades he returned to the piano and took a whole year to learn one piece (another Chopin Nocturne) – memorizing, enjoying, and never tiring of it. Now he’s on to another piece. That’s inspiration.