Sunday, October 30, 2011

Win Two Tickets to 2 Pianos 4 Hands in Toronto November 4

Today's guest post was written by Liz Parker, a publicist who also teachers piano. Sometimes she traumatically frightens her students. You can find out more about Liz at LIZPR.

I am sitting at CBC Radio during a break after a sound check for “Q”. I’m here on a PR run with Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt the creators of the play 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which debuted fifteen years ago in Toronto. It was a smash hit then, and judging by the media interest, will be, again. It’s being re-launched by Mirvish Productions and opens at Panasonic Theatre October 30.

I’m so appreciative of all the media that Ted and Richard are doing – including getting up gross-early (like today) to do sound checks, knowing they have to wait around for an hour before going live on air, plus doing a full media day this past Tuesday that Mirvish set up for them. I was thinking “wow, they’re so discplined about this.” Of course, we all know where that discpline came from.

Both Ted and Richard grew up on a steady diet of piano practice. It was non-negotiable. Either practice or all privleges were suspended. Growing up with a Tiger Mother myself, it was pretty much “practice or throw yourself on that samurai sword right now.”

The whole issue of practicing is one of the most difficult things to deal with if you’re a music student. It is equally one of the most difficult things to enforce as a music teacher or parent. The biggest resentment for kids is practicing, despite refusing to quit. This applies not only to piano, violin, or, god forbid, viola. It applies to other things too: soccer, figure skating, law school, or pre-med. I know I hated my parents big time for denying me the chance to go sledding on a rare snowfall in Vancouver; for denying me a night at “Circuit Circus” to play Ms. Pac Man with my friends; the chance to see films like “Sixteen Candles” on the weekend. Also, if a birthday party, Halloween, or anything fun conflicted with my piano or theory lessons, too bad – music came first, end of discussion. Don’t argue, or you don’t get any dessert. At the time I thought it was pure hell and I was pretty resentful and pulled out the “YOU ALWAYS FAVOURED JACKIE” line a few times because it always seemed fitting to do so (my older brother who won every damn piano competition he ever entered). 

Looking back on it, I can’t get OVER the sheer dedication and endless support my parents gave me. All that nagging to practice paid off. I do understand what it means to commit to something and mean it. I understand that to do well, you have to work your tail off – and it helps if you pick something you do love despite the dreaded practice invovled. All those years of practicing means I can now apply my music skills elsewhere – I work with musicians for a living. I write about them, style them for photo shoots, and understand where they’re coming from. I also teach piano kids on the side – one could say it’s payback – and I’m startled to discover I’m turning into my mother, and at times, my own traumatically frightening piano teacher.  My musical life has come full circle.  

2 Pianos 4 Hands sums up the lives of anyone who either studied a musical instrument or had a dream that didn’t quite work out.

Here's how to win two tickets to 2P4H on Friday, November 4:

Leave a comment after this post stating what you hated most about practicing in 100 words or less. [CF: once you've left a comment, email me at collaborativepiano at gmail dot com with the same comment so Liz and I will know how to contact you. Good luck everyone!]  The deadline will be at 5pm on Tuesday, November 1, with winners announced the following day.

2 Pianos 4 Hands will run at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto from October 30 – November 20. Visit or call TICKETKING at 416 872 1212.

Update: Congratulations to tjhewer, who has just won 2 tickets to Friday's performance!


  1. What I hated most as a child at the piano was the restrictions - from my Mother "STOP FOOLING AROUND!". From my Father "YOU NEED TO SLOW THAT DOWN." I was expected to practise what was assigned, in the manner it was assigned, and NEVER deviate from that for the daily half hour I was destined to the bench. Heaven help me if I tried to do something interesting with the rhythm or turn the page and sight read through the next piece. Sheer drudgery!

  2. Practicing was always a pain for me because I simply hated the pieces at the beginning (especially if it was a Beethoven sonata.) I felt like every note or chord or quick hand change was just a devilish ploy by the composer to frustrate you at every corner. I could hear them laughing from beyond the grave every time I stumbled: “Ha, got him AGAIN!” So from day one it was a constant war between me and the composer. In fact, it’s a good thing they were already dead, because they probably would have been soon anyways.

  3. What I hated most about practicing was knowing that my piano teaching mother was listening in from somewhere else in the house. She tactfully installed French doors so I could close off the piano room and think I was practicing privately.

  4. I'm about the deliver the most commonly used excuse for hating practicing:

    What I hated about practicing was not playing what I wanted.

    The thing is, I probably could have loved it, if only I'd been "cool" for playing Bach and Beethoven. It doesn't work that way. Kids say, "Do 'Cold Play'" or, "Do you know any 'Linkin Park'?" When the answer is, "Um...I know Mozart's 'Fantasia in D Minor", they get this bored look in their eyes. "Oh, classical," they say.

    Excuse, yes. But maybe practicing would be easier if what kids wanted to play wasn't dictated by their peers.

  5. Most of the time I didn't mind practicing but there WERE times when I just did NOT want to do it. I think the most confusing part was "WHY do I have to practice THIS?" I found this to be the case for scales - I remember asking my teacher WHY I was running up and down in all of the major and minor keys every day. She said "Well, you need to know how to do that because much of the classical repertoire features very fast scalic passages - you know - like Mozart!"
    True enough, but it wasn't till I joined a band and someone said "this song is in C minor" that I realized WHY I had learned all those scales!

  6. What I hated most about practicing was that I wasn't given clear instructions on how to practice, and consequently made slow progress.

  7. I just hated the nagging and being told when to practice, how long to practice, and how to play it "right". Shouldn't the tempo, etc come from the heart and be done with feeling? So stop squashing my soul by making me do it just like everyone else.

  8. I hated practicing at times because...

    1. Mozart nor Beethoven were on MTV's top 10 hits
    2. All the kids were playing Grand Theft auto or Doom, definitely not a big black wooden box.
    3. No matter how much I practiced there was more practicing left

  9. I hated note being able to control what time of day I practiced. I think I would have been far more enthusiastic if I had been able to choose.

  10. The mind-numbing repetition required for scales and tricky bits was deadly boring to me. I knew I needed to do it, and would always dread the moment at lessons when I would be required to actually play the bits I theoretically had practiced. But repeating the same 8 bars over and over for 30 mins or doing my minor scales when I could be reading an interesting book? The book won every time. In fact, I used to prop a book on the piano and read while doing scales and arpeggios until I got caught in the act.

  11. Thanks for your submissions, everyone! The contest is now closed, and Liz will be taking a look at everyone's practice anecdotes with the winner announced tomorrow.