Last night, I went to a piano recital that included one of my grandchildren, eight-year old Dan, who is in his first year at this piano school. Now the school itself is a prominent one that not only gives piano lessons but also sells pianos. In other words, it is a big business with a few locations sprinkled on Long Island and a very solid reputation. No qualms in that department. In fact, I don't quibble with the teachers or even the students. My axe to grind is with the parents.


So, I sit on this metal folding chair for an hour and a half listening to 17 students take two turns each in playing selections. The age range is wide, from the person playing for only a year (Dan) to those who have been in the program for six years. What I expected to hear, obviously, was a similar performance: weak for the youngsters, strong for the older. Not so.


Out of 17 kids, I have less than a handful who had, in my estimation, and some experts sitting with me, any talent. Of those four, two were in the first year. My grandson, objectively, is included there. Actually, I wouldn’t expect any less, with a mother who has been on the theatrical stage, a grandmother, on the maternal side, who is a very well known music teacher, and an uncle who has also been on stage. In other words, there is music running in those genes, and frankly, it showed, all to a grandfather's distinct relief.


What I can't understand are the parents and relatives of the other 13 children. Where are their heads? We're talking some dollars and sense here. It is wonderful to expose children to music but where do you draw the line in wasting money by placing it in the least helpful area? Think about it. A dollar a minute is the cost of a lesson and students go at least once a week (minimum) for a half-hour times 46 weeks a year. So, the parents are investing some dollars here, not to mention the cost of a piano, which doesn't exactly come in a Happy Meal box.


Wouldn't they be better off recognizing early on that their precious child did not have the aptitude here and that they would be better off investing that money elsewhere, especially toward a college education, which is slowly but surely reaching stratospheric proportions?


But no, maybe they can't see clearly and think that the prodigy is perfectly fine and that after six years of lessons he or she can play Yankee Doodle Dandy with four fingers but still looking at sheet music.


I just don’t get it. You can also make the same pitch for those that believe their sons or daughters are the next coming of Pele or Mia Hamm and wind up sending them to soccer camps at thousands and thousands of dollars over the summer. We're talking about kids who, bless their hearts, can't walk and chew gum at the same time.


With what things cost today and what they will cost in years to come, perhaps parents should review that portfolio of money outlay and do it better. As a grandparent, I witness some outrageous things going on today with my own grandchildren and begin to wonder who's wagging the dog's tail. If you're a parent, remember how many toys you had as a kid? Compare those with what your own kids now have…and the cost of them. Perhaps some financial planning should be given along with the Lamaze classes.


But, don't listen to me. I'm just a happy curmudgeon with eight talented grandchildren who could retire luxuriously just on the cost of their piano lessons, soccer camps, toys, computer games, and Happy Meals.

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