The first lesson

The Boy has been asking for this since he was three years old, and today, he finally had his very first guitar lesson.

I was extremely nervous – and anxious – this morning. When I called George’s Music last week, I was informed that they typically don’t start lessons with kids until they’re at least 6, but they agreed to let Nico, one of their instructors, meet with The Boy to assess his readiness. I guess I was as nervous as I was because The Boy wants this so badly, and it would be heartbreaking to hear someone tell him, “Look, you’re just not ready for this yet.” It was bad enough that the music teacher at his school was trying to dissuade me; I didn’t think I could handle another letdown.

But as it turns out, all my anxiety was for naught. Nico told me he was pleasantly surprised to see how well The Boy was able to focus on learning to play, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear The Boy creating different sounds by holding down the strings at different frets. (That was the vocabulary word of the day.)

I’m getting ahead of the story, though.

There was crazy traffic on the freeway heading to George’s Music, so we were about 5 minutes late. Nico met us as we walked in, and the three of us headed upstairs to the music rooms for The Boy’s first lesson. I helped The Boy get his guitar out of its case (I don’t mind playing the part of “Roadie” right now) and let him choose a guitar pick. He sat down on the chair with Nico, and they began to talk.

“So, what made you decide to learn to play guitar?” Nico asked him.

“Well,” The Boy said, “at first I didn’t know if I wanted to play guitar or drums. But then I decided on guitar. And I’ll learn to play the drums when I’m 12.”

Nico smiled. “That’s cool. You know, I play the drums, and I play guitar, too. And I think guitar is a great first instrument for you.”

And with that, the lesson began.

If I didn’t know that this first lesson was also an assessment, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Nico very casually tested The Boy’s finger strength (and was pleasantly surprised – as was I – to find The Boy was able to hold down a string with all his fingers, including his pinky), his reading skills, and his memory.

“Eddie ate dynamite. Good-bye, Eddie!” is the mnemonic device used to remember the notes that the open strings on the guitar make. (Nico was very sweet and offered to come up with something different, but I assured him it wasn’t necessary.) The Boy needed to hear it a couple of times, but by the time we got home, he remembered the notes on the guitar, even out of order.

Nico gave The Boy some very basic homework for next week’s lesson:

  • Practice playing E and F. (E is easy; F is a little more difficult because he has to hold down the string.)
  • Memorize “Eddie ate dynamite; good-bye, Eddie!”
  • Remember the word “fret” and what it is on the guitar.

“So what do you think?” I asked Nico as The Boy put away his guitar and pick. “Is he ready to take lessons?”

Nico nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, definitely. I have to say I’m always skeptical when parents want to bring in a really young kid, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well he can keep his attention. I mean, most kids his age are squirming all over the place.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay, good. I just want to make sure it won’t be too hard for you to work with him.”

He shrugged. “I don’t get frustrated working with little kids. I just don’t want parents to waste their money when their kid isn’t really into it. But I think he’ll be fine.”

The Boy finished packing up his stuff and we went downstairs to pay for this session and complete the paperwork to enroll him in continuous lessons. Nico spoke very quickly to the manager before we started filling out the forms, and I later found out that Nico said he thinks The Boy has some real talent.

And as proud as that makes me as a mom, I also think back to a quote I’ve heard many times:

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.

– Robert Half

The Boy was eager to practice when we got home, and he wanted to practice tonight before bedtime, too. It’s only the first day and the first lesson, and it’s going to get much tougher as the weeks and months pass. So all I can hope is that he really works hard at this.

After all, he promised to stick with this for at least a year, and that means he’s got at least 51 more lessons to go.

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