Sunday, August 27, 2017

What Does a Piano Competition Have to Do With Raising Children?

The Semi-Finals and the Finals for the 16th Chopin International Piano Competition in Asia were just held at Showa University of Music in Shinyurigaoka. My just-turned 11-year-old son was in the competition.

The Chopin International Piano Competition in Asia is one of the highest level and most prestigious competitions all of Asia. Just to be able to compete means that these children have made it to the top level of their class. Some of those kids are simply amazing!

In October the finals were held for Tokyo and, in his first attempt, we were pleasantly surprised when our son won a Bronze Medal and made it to the semi-finals. He is in the 11-year-old to 13-year-old category so we did not expect to win a medal (some of those 13-year-olds are incredibly awesome and there is a big difference in growth and body strength between a 11-year-old and a 13-year-old!) So we were extremely happy that he even made it to the semi-finals in his first year trying. Most 11-year-olds didn't pass the earlier competitions.

If you have a child and they are involved in any sort of competition like this, then you know it is not just a competition for the child; it becomes a group effort involving the parents, siblings, an instructor (or two or three) and, perhaps, even some family friends. My contribution? I make breakfast and dinner almost everyday, do the grocery shopping, and am chauffeur and delivery boy so that my classical-piano-trained-wife can focus on working with our son in honing his skill and talent. Thanks to this group effort, and the extra effort of his instructors, he fared well.

A few days before the semi-finals, we had the chance for our son to practice on a real Steinway grand piano for a few hours so I decided to make a video of his practice. It's not often that one can get to where a real Steinway is located and be allowed to video tape and have a run of the stage! So, I just had to make this video! When it was finished, I just knew I wanted you, dear reader, to see it.

This was a live performance, in a private seating, on Jan. 8, 2015 at Shiodome Hall in Tokyo of Chopin Impromptu. If the link doesn't work, click here:

(If you enjoyed the performance and the video by Mike Rogers and Ken Nishikawa, please go to the Youtube link and give us a "Thumbs up!"

Trust folks, that when kids get to this level of skill (the top level in their peer group) in anything; be it any musical instrument, ballet dancing, classical violin, soccer, baseball, swimming, painting; heck, anything involved with art, skill or talent, that they have gotten to the point that it is almost 100% completely up to the child as to whether or not they can succeed. Only if the child really wants to do this and they have the inner talent, hunger and desire to succeed in their hearts and minds, can they take their "game" up to the level they need. The parents can push and push and push forever, but it won't matter (in fact, pushing too much is detrimental); the child must feel and desire to succeed in their goal in their entire being in order to, well, hate to be corny but to "Feel the Force." A flower cannot be forced to grow.

Well, as it turns out, our son didn't make it to the finals. He was a bit disappointed but... at the semi-finals, he played the best he's ever played, so we are more than proud, pleased and satisfied. We couldn't have asked for more! In his first try he made it to the semi-finals so we are not disappointed at all. 

If he didn't play well; we might have been disappointed. But, he played his heart out and played wonderfully. At this level of competition, winners and kids who didn't win (because win or lose, all these kids are winners), are all decided by the tastes and whims of the judges. 

One of my sons instructors was at the competition and witnessed his performance and praised him greatly; she believes he can win. Maybe he can win, but not this year. My son says he wants to try again next year. 

So, we get to go through it all again… Next year. What a wonderful experience and great memories for parents and their children.

As my friend Ken always says; "Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow." 

As my friend Jyoti reminded me;

"What day is it?" asked Pooh.

"It is today." squeaked Piglet.

"Oh? My favorite day!" said Pooh.

Life is fun. We are happy. Hope you are happy too. 


NOTES: I have harped on this subject relentlessly and will until the day I die: I am a professional in broadcasting so I like to think I know what I am talking about concerning the subject of TV. There is no way my son (or any of these other children who were in the Chopin Competition in Asia (or anywhere else) could ever be in this sort of competition or at this sort of level of skill had they been watching TV. Do your children a favor; throw away your TV set. For more, please refer to: The Plug-in Drug

School is, of course, extremely important. I choose my son's school for a variety of reasons and, soon, I will post about that. But for now I'd like to recommend St. Mary's International School in Tokyo. I know many graduates of that school who are leaders in business (presidents and high ranking executives of big companies in Japan) as well as well known musicians and athletes. In fact, in the music department, St. Mary's Boys Choir is internationally famous and has won many awards over the years... You don't get that way without skilled and talented professional instructors. I know that St. Mary's is tops in this country in these fields. I cannot count the number of times, in my capacity as a guy who did marketing for huge corporations in Tokyo that I have met big shots who were graduates of St. Mary's in Tokyo. 

The world is getting more and more difficult. It's getting harder to succeed, and even to survive in. I think this is because of the economy; and it's going to get much tougher from here on out. School is to teach math, reading and writing, but also needs to teach our kids how to think and get a meaningful job, a dream in life and how to prosper in our society. 

Get rid of the TV; get them into a top level private school (or even home school?) Our kids need all the advantages they can get.

THANKS: To my best friend Ken Nishikawa. Without Ken, none of these video productions could be possible.

ADDENDUM: August 27, 2017. My son made it to the "All-Japan Finals" again... "Hell time" at my house from now. Do or die! Step up and hit the home run or go back and try again..... School, study, practice - AND karate practice (he is one step away from Black Belt)... Could have NEVER done these things if he was watching TV.


Andrew Joseph said...

A nice article from a proud papa bear. Good on you all!
With my son's inability to focus on anything he is supposed to be focusing on, it's been a struggle for himself and for us, as parents.
I can not disagree with your comments regarding the television, even though I, watch a fair bit myself, but we do regulate and limit our son's watching. He does so himself when he's practicing his sports, which is about the only thing he can focus on - he's just so slight in build, however, so his strength is often lacking... but at least he has heart and seems to give it his all when he plays - much more than others... but if only we could channel his baseball and other sports skills into school.
I blame genetics.

Anonymous said...

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