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The Pillow And The Piano

The Pillow And The Piano

The Pillow and the Piano describes a lesson with a child who didn't want a lesson that day. Kids will tell you what they need, even if they can't say it. It was a piano lesson with one of my most brilliant students, an autistic boy who seems completely normal and has more raw musical talent than anyone I know.

This eight year-old can sight read and transpose in a way that would frighten you if you knew what he was doing.

The Pillow Was Protection

And yet he is just a boy. He is vulnerable, moody and on his own wavelength. So when he came into the living room and took a pillow from the sofa to hold in front of him, I knew something was up. I sensed instantly that he was protecting himself from the piano, using the pillow as his shield. I could tell right away this kid didn't really want a piano lesson.

Let The Kid Have His Space

So I let him have the pillow and began playing the piano and talking, ignoring the fact that he was holding a pillow almost as large as himself. I decided to see what happened if I let him have his space. Seven minutes went by before he reached a hand from behind the pillow to join in. I held the pillow while he played at one point remarking, "Didn't want you to drop your pillow, sir."

He Started Playing When He Was Ready

After a few minutes I said casually, "You should play this Bach piece. It's really easy but it sounds hard." He likes Bach, with the taste of an aristocrat, and quickly tried the Toccata with both hands, but the pillow was in the way. I took it and assured him he could have it back at any time.

Five minutes later he had forgotten about the pillow and learned eight bars of the Bach D minor Toccata. His mom came into the room, truly impressed. The child returned to his normal position, no pillow, just sitting at the piano. "What's the next part?" he asked with a smile. He'd found his new song.

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