Music Theory Class Update–Midterm Results and The Story Of Austin

I was braced for the bad news on my Music Theory Class midterm. I was sure I botched it–big time. I even started researching other colleges around my area to see if I could take a similar class somewhere else this summer. Then class was unexpectedly cancelled after Spring Break…and I had to wait another week for the results.  A cliffhanger worse than any K-drama, that’s for sure!  So you can imagine my shock when I got this grade on my Midterm exam:


90. As in 90 out of 100. OMG. An “A”. I think Songsaenim was a little lenient on my extra credit portion, but whatever–I’ll take it. As you can see, I did mess up on the listening portion– I truly need to work on that. Oh–and I got full credit on my first concert report too! She seemed to like it. Whoa!  Not that I’m going to stop going to tutoring; in fact I think I will be going the full 3 hours I can possibly go per week. My tutors are really helpful–I seem to need to hear the information over and over again, but in slightly different ways so I understand it better.

This week, Songsaenim seemed to be in a chatty mood. She told our class (all 9 of us who are left!)  a story that I found quite interesting, especially given my affinity for SLA–

A few years ago, a parent called her up–basically begging Songsaenim to take this 4 year old son of hers–Austin–on as a student. He was brilliant; a prodigy according to his mom. You could tell Songsaenim has heard it all before…my kid is special, my kid is brilliant, blah, blah….and she’s not buying it. A year passed–with some interim nagging by Austin’s mom–and finally Songsaenim gave in. They lived an hour and a half drive away from Songsaenim too–here in SoCal, that’s a brutal commute. Austin shows up to the first lesson–dressed in a 3 piece suit!  He formally introduces himself with a handshake and his mom pulls out stacks of books…really advanced concert level stuff–Chopin, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky…even Bartok! He sits down and asks Songsaenim what she wants him to play–she picks out a couple of pieces-then he plays them from memory. OMG–I’m sitting up now, and leaning forward…wow, how amazing is this?  Austin is the real deal–just like Seon Jae was in SLA.  Austin stayed with her as a student for several years until his dad (an engineer) was transferred to another state. The dad was the problem here. Overbearing in the extreme, he finally bribed Austin to give up piano and study Engineering at college with the promise of a new BMW! (Not worth it–they break if you breathe on them.) To his credit, Austin started college with a double major of Engineering and International Business with a Minor in Music, but he couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming workload and finally dropped the Business first, and then the Music. What a sad story….we have all been deprived of enjoying this young man’s talent. Certainly, Austin had a future in the classical music world, but he was constantly told by his dad–there’s no money in it, forget it–you’ll never make it. Total negativity. There are so few people who have that kind of ability–it’s a gift, really–and then to throw it away like that–wow. I wish I had one thimbleful of Austin’s ability. I’d be thrilled. He’s in his late 20’s now, and I can only hope that someday Austin comes back to the piano, or at least gives his children the opportunity to pursue their dreams (whether they are musically based or not) that he never had.

As a parent, it is the highest challenge to guide your child into a career that suits them–and that may not be what necessarily suits you. You want the best for your child; financial security and all that, but if they are unhappy…what then?  I really stressed about this as my kids grew up. I was pressured relentlessly by my own parents…yet I saw the parents of my kids’ friends literally have no expectations or guidance at all for their kids. There had to be a middle ground. I hope I found it–time will tell.

I do know that I had a kid with a gift–my youngest son from the very beginning could take things apart and put them back together effortlessly. It only took him seeing it done one time, whether in person or on a You Tube video, and he got it. At 4 years old, he took apart an electrical outlet in my home after watching the electrician do it–except the electrician had turned the electricity off first! Did my son get shocked? Oh, no…he said he knew which wires to touch and which ones not to touch–so no problems! You can bet I had the electrician come back, re-install the outlet, and give my son a stern scolding on the dangers of electricity!  He put together Lego sets before the youngest age specified on the box, then he graduated to small hand tools and Erector Sets. By mid-elementary school, he repaired all his friend’s skateboards, and in 6th grade he built a heavy duty wooden stand for my front-loader washing machine that I still use today. He repaired all his friends bicycles too–even building “Franken-bikes” out of spare parts if someone’s bike had been stolen, and they were desperate for transportation. By 8th grade, he had graduated to auto repair….and now at 19, he works on Italian sports cars worth more than my house! It was not easy keeping up with him–I spent a lot of money on tools, and his perfectionist tendencies make him a tough cookie to live with–but he loves his job and it’s all worth it. In contrast, I struggle with just about everything in life. I think that’s why my older son and I get along so well. He struggles too, so we understand each other. Nothing is ever easy for me–but I can appreciate and admire those who do have a gift.


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