The Gift

Posted by M ws On Saturday, December 15, 2012 4 comments
It was a melancholic day yesterday as my boy left for KL at half past two in the afternoon. However, I am thankful for the time shared and for the fact that for the first time since 2008, he can spend Christmas and my birthday with the family.

Till this day, I find it so uncanny that whilst I harbored the hope of being a musician and dreamt of becoming a lawyer, I ended up in the teaching profession. Previously, I had hoped my son would be an accountant or lawyer but he ended up as a musician and music teacher. 

For my younger boy who is 14, I dreamt of him becoming a scientist making inventions that would benefit mankind but it looks like he is going to take the musical path for his ambition is to be a conductor. Ever so often, he keeps asking me for one gift. Recently, he took his ATCL diploma for piano. I offered to get him a data plan but he politely declined it and explained he does not need a data plan because:

* he is always at home so he can use the home internet connection
* he is no addict to any computer game or social media
* he only needs to whatsapp or viber his friends
* etc etc

Alternatively, he asked me for a grand piano.


I am not joking. I live in a small double-storey terrace house and am not a rich person either so you can imagine my reaction each time he makes his request. When I argued there is no space in the house, these are his counter-arguments:

1. We can give the dining table to an orphanage or an old folks' home because we seldom ever have guests over for dinner. 
2. The side cabinet can be sent to his brother in KL and the knick-knacks I store there can be thrown away.
3. Then the house would be de-cluttered and beautified with the grand piano.
4. He needs a grand piano to prepare for his LTCL exam next year.
5. Even though I just got him a brand new Yamaha upright piano (exam model) and traded in the old one, he insists the latter was better. Hence, he suggested trading in the new upright piano for a grand piano, even if it is a second-hand or re-conditioned model.
6. etc etc etc


I used to say money is not important but at this stage of life, I have to say, yes it IS important. It is not easy to develop musical talent because it costs time, money and effort. 

It has been a long and expensive journey to ensure we give the boys the best exposure in music. Sometimes, friends cannot understand why we hardly ever take holidays together as a family. Because, it simply costs too much. The money can be spent in more fruitful ways. Virtual tours take the place of real tours and to me, it is better because we save time, effort and jostling with other tourists.

Music lessons, music books, exam fees, equipment etc all add up to a big bundle. A very old friend of mine who is single can never understand why I prefer to shop at pasar malam than at designer shops and why I don't go on expensive holidays. The last time we met, she said I am cheapskate, stingy and irrational etc to be happy over a pair of wedged sandals I bought at pasar malam for 6RM (which I love so much and has served me faithfully for months) but I don't bother to argue or to explain to her what it means to have children. Between paying RM 1800 for the diploma exam and spending that same amount on an overseas holiday or a designer handbag or a pair of expensive soles, I would use the money for the exam fees.

It is a question of choice, priorities and knowing what is important in life. Consumer goods are not durable but talent when honed can bring hours and years of everlasting musical pleasure.

There is a difference between wants and needs and I wish I had more $$$ to buy my son a grand piano. I really do. But I cannot and have tried to explain to him that it is not because I don't want him to be better.

It was only recently that I realized how much good equipment means to both my boys when we spent time together and we talked about the different types of bows, violins, pianos, the type of wood used and its age and how each affects the tone and quality of the sound produced. It is quite similar to how a car fanatic wants the best wheels.

On my part, I have tried to inspire my boys to be the best in what they do, the music they produce and how they play regardless of the instruments. Whilst I love them to bits, I am also quite strict and demanding as a mother. To me, it is not just the tonal quality or musicianship etc that they need to develop for I also hope they will develop their showmanship and body language. Whilst I am very proud of them, both the boys are very hard on themselves for they feel they still have a looooooooooong way to go. In fact, they objected to me posting the recordings in FB and YouTube and Nick cannot understand why I keep watching the videos.

I just told him that he will never understand until the day he becomes a father. :-) Indeed, it has been a long journey which is not over yet.

I just pray that somehow, they will develop and hone their skills and all they need for a musical career and that God willing, they can get a scholarship to further their education in music...a post-grad opportunity for Jon and a high school scholarship for Nick.

The best payback I can get after all the years ferrying them to and fro, waiting for them to finish their rehearsals, biting my nails anxiously while waiting for them to take their exams, watching them study etc. would be private soirees with them and the fact that they can play anything I both have perfect pitch and play by ear. Here are two impromptu recordings I made on Thursday night. 

CLICK here for their impromptu rendition of Michael Jackson's Billie-Jean. This was played specially for their dad who paid for their music lessons and most of their instruments.

CLICK HERE for their impromptu rendition of Pachelbel's Canon in G which I requested before they called it a night.

CLICK HERE for their blues impromptu improvisation.

CLICK HERE for Nick's rendition of Beethoven's Bagatelle Op. 126, No. 1 - 3.

You can see that the younger one is more expressive in his body language. This is because there was one day when I impressed upon him that he needed to work on body movements. And that had to come with feelings for he had to feel the music in his soul and let the instrument sing out the music and his body movement to jive with what he felt in his heart and what he could hear from what he was playing. And that if he had no passion or feelings, then he could never be a musician. From then, there was a breakthrough. I did not place that much emphasis on this on my older boy when he was young but in the last few years, I have been emphasizing the need to develop his stage presence, image and showmanship. All of us, including myself have a looooooong way to go and the point is, we never stop learning till the day we die.

Looking back, I recall how my parents objected to my request for music lessons even though I am musically inclined as my dad, favourite aunts and a few cousins are very gifted musicians in their own right. Growing up in an extended family household in the 1960's, it was normal for us to sit around the piano while watching the cousins take their turn to practise. In the 1970's I moved to Air Itam and my neighbour then was Ass. Prof. Sylvia Wang of Northwestern University so my love was deepened as it was simply awesome to listen to her play so expressively for hours on end. By the time I went to university, I used my savings from private tutoring to buy a piano and another old friend gave me free music lessons. As a guitarist, I understood the chords and rhythmic patterns and by the time I was part of the church's worship team, I could play by ear and to improvise accordingly. Till today, I really wish I had had the opportunity to be trained in music. And that is why I have given my children what I did not have when young - as many opportunities possible in music because God is the One who gave them the gift of music and it is but a small contribution of mine to help them develop and master that gift.

God bless you!

4 comments to The Gift

  1. says:

    LC Teh I'm amused by your statement that you wanted to be a musician but harbored hopes your son would be a lawyer. Instead he became a musician. I wanted to be an artist or a designer but due to lack of opportunities I ended up as an engineer (though without any qualification). I hoped for my kids to become engineers, but they all ended up as designers. But I'm happy for them as they find joy in such work.

  1. says:

    patches Hee, hee - isn't that the mystery of life?? what you yearn for most may not be unto you but to your loved one - but it is every mother's dream, I guess. No matter what, how lucky and wonderful you are to be able to hear the lovely piano music, be it on an upright or a grand! Tell Nick to work hard and his dream of having a grand piano will one day be realized. I just wish I could be at your home one day listening to Nick playing music! Enjoy my dear and wishing you all a blessed and joyous Christmas and a Happy Birthday (when is that day?)

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear LCTeh

    I am so sorry for this late response to your comment. Thank you for highlighting the paradox of life in both your situation and mine. Like you, I am also very happy for my son as he derives much joy in what he does and shows much passion, interest and dedication to honing his skills. Take care and here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas!


  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Patches

    Thank you so much for sharing my joy and for your exuberant and supportive response which touched me deeply. I do apologise for this late response.

    Thanks for encouraging Nick to press on in his quest for musical excellence. He is very determined to complete all his piano and violin diplomas before he finishes his SPM.

    You are most welcome to visit my home for a private recital by Nick. You can also check out the new links I put up lately and also on Christmas Eve @ 6.30am.

    And yes, I will be turning a year older on Christmas Day. Thank you for remembering and asking...Take care and here's wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas!!!

    Warmest wishes

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