My piano teachers last words before she slammed the piano lid down on my fingers.
I started playing the piano when I was 3.5 years old. During the 17 years of my life being tutored, I only had three music teachers. The first one only lasted 15 months due to distance, and the last was a couple of years, but it was my second tutor Miss Isabella Gonzales, a Philippine descendent who had the most profound impact on my playing. Her passion was clear, she loved to see her students achieve incredible results yet cemented the core values of what it meant to play the piano. I had no idea how incredibly powerful her teaching habits would change my life forever. She was an extrovert lady who rode a moped to all her classes, and took 10 minutes just getting out of the riding gear.
Unlike most children I didn't have a choice in playing the piano, I was encouraged to practice every day by my mum. Her regimental approach meant I had to be on that piano for 30 minutes as soon as I got back from school.
It was around the age of 13 that I started rebelling against wanting to play the piano anymore, which is when my mum stepped up the encouragement to forcing me to practice. According to my parents, I would regret giving up in later years which is why I ended up being disciplined most days. By the time I was 15 my repertoire of classical pieces had grown and I could definitely give you an hours concert with no breaks. I enjoyed playing and spent many hours trying to learn new techniques. At one point I would practice an hour blindfolded just to prove to myself I could play the piano without looking...
Playing great piano came at a price!
It was in Oct 1989, I was practicing for my Grade 8 Piano and couldn't wait to finish my journey. I had achieved so much and this was the final hurdle...I was at Miss Gonzales's house repeating the same piece over and over, to make sure I got it right, just then, she told me not to look down, which i did, then the unexpected happened! SLAM!!!
The entire lid of a baby grand Steinway crushed my fingers!!! At first the pain was so unbearable my eyes just glazed over. Once I came round, I realised it wasn't an accident but done on purpose. I didn't know how to feel, what to say or even do. I was angry but she had been my tutor for many years, I wasn't about to disrespect her. She repeated herself again, "I told you not to look at your fingers" I immediately apologised and started to cry...I couldn't even move my fingers properly. She told me she had, had enough and that I should go home.
I was in lot of pain and when I explained to my mum what had happened, to my shock she sided with the teacher and told me never to upset her again. With all the issues I caused or the pain I endured during my learning, I was always in love with the piano. It was my best friend, my oxygen, my go to when I needed an answer.
I'm so grateful to both my mother and my piano tutor for all the hard work and patience they needed to keep me on the right path. Do I regret what happened to me? No. Would I wish it on another child? No. Perhaps, adopting new ways to inspire musicians would be my dream.