Matthew has loved music and instruments for as long as I can remember. He gravitates to movies and tv shows with music or singing like The Wiggles, The Backyardigans and Little Einsteins. He likes to listen to classical music in the car. He keeps miniatures of instruments in his treasure box. He fixates on tubas anytime we see them.
Over the years, we made several attempts to teach him an instrument. We bought a child’s cello at an auction, but then could not find anyone willing to teach him. We ultimately donated the cello to a non-profit. We bought a tuba from Goodwill. He loved it so much, but he couldn’t figure out the breathing techniques necessary to play it. That instrument received a lot of love from Matthew before it “retired” from service. He participated in the Cordova Strings program during his 5th grade year at CPE and it was successful due to an amazing strings teacher, Ms. Clark, and an assist from our beloved Ms. Creek. Ms. Creek attended every class with him and played hand over hand with him. His fine motors skills limited his ability to play violin by himself and led to frustration on his part, so we scratched the violin. I kept my ears open hoping to find just the right music teacher for Matthew.
About two months, my friend Jessica shared a link to Melody Makers 850 advertising a local adaptive music teacher, Mrs. Stephanie. I immediately reached out to her to inquire about piano lessons for Matthew. Our first conversation put my mind at ease, I knew she was well qualified to work with adaptive students and more importantly, was enthusiastic about working with Matthew, specifically.
I asked Matthew if he wanted to take piano lessons and he quickly replied, “yes, when do we start?” I made arrangements for an initial lesson and prayed for the best. I hate to admit that in an out of character fashion for me, I did no further research or homework on the program. I just relied on my friend’s recommendation and God’s divine intervention.
Upon meeting Mrs. Stephanie and observing her interact with Matthew, my expectations rose a bit. The program involves teaching the students to read and play music using a combination of color-coded handbells, videos, workbooks and of course, a keyboard or piano. To both of our surprise, we learned that Matthew possesses pretty solid pitch. He identified notes by ear, that I had no idea he knew. He loved playing the bells and channelling his inner Ord, from Dragon Tales, and shouting “Dooooo!). Lesson 1 ended with excitement on my part and anticipation on Matthew’s. I believed we finally found the right music teacher for Matthew and he practiced and prepared for the next lesson without complaint. We are now on about week 10 of lessons. Matthew practices without much of a push from me. His pitch continues to improve. His fingers are growing stronger and his motor skills are improving. He’s adding some root notes with the left hand and still managing to play the right. I’m so proud of him and he’s prouder of himself. He’s looking ahead in the songbook anxious to get to some of his favorites from The Wiggles. I’m grateful to Mrs. Stephanie for her patience and persistence. I’m grateful to whoever created this program that makes sense to my son, who doesn’t always learn things the straightforward way. A bonus is that I am learning to read music too! Just one more lesson I never expected to learn from Matthew, we are making music and making memories.