Sonya Plays Piano

I love telling people about how Yan and I met. It took place in New York City circa late 2007 at a loud bar in the East Village. Upon being introduced by a mutual friend, I soon learned that Yan was a pianist and I was immediately entranced. On our second date, Yan invited me over to his apartment where he made me a mushroom omelette sandwich and then serenaded me by playing Chopin’s Etude no. 3 on his upright piano. I knew at that moment I would marry him! Here is a video of Yan playing:

Fast forward ten years. We are married. We have a grand piano that literally takes up 34 percent of our living room, and we have a three-year-old daughter who  is ready for piano lessons (well, according to Yan – but perhaps this is debatable). The only issue is our daughter is was born deaf and wears bilateral cochlear implants. That said, she has always loved music. And we have decided to move forward with piano lessons!

However, Yan’s very Russian mantra “chain her to the piano!” may not yet apply. At least for now. Instead, we devote just five minutes a day to the piano and only if she is up for it. We don’t put her in front of the piano when she is tired or not feeling great. The key is for her to associate the piano with something fun. Not for it to be a drag or chore.

The next few weeks, we are working on accomplishing a few small goals:

  • For Sonya to be excited to play piano
  • For Sonya to identify the C key throughout the keyboard
  • For Sonya to have a general understanding of the keyboard

For now, Sonya is to identify two black keys on the keyboard, press them with her two fingers, then skip to the next three black keys and say “skip”. She then must find the next two black keys. We do this up and down the piano using her left and right hands.

Once she has mastered this, we will work on finding the two black keys, and then finding C.

Since the keys of our grand piano are still a bit heavy for Sonya’s tiny fingers, we purchased the MunkikiM Roll Up Rainbow Piano, which Sonya received on her birthday. The piano rolls up so is easy to store in our small apartment, and the colorful keys are perfect for visual learners like Sonya. She also received My First Keyboard Book, which has a small keyboard and simple songs with visual cues that Sonya can learn to play.

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We have a wonderful piano teacher (who is incredibly talented – we aren’t kidding around here:). He visits us periodically to gage Sonya’s progress. Piano isn’t for everyone. It may not be for Sonya, ultimately. She is, after all, genetically predisposed both to love it (given who her parents are) and at the same time for it to be a great challenge for her.

P.s. Check out some of my earlier posts on music:

Sonya Sings All the Time

The Sweetest Dance

Suffering from Music Loss

On Music

 

The Sweetest Dance

If you follow this blog, you are likely aware that when I learned my daughter Sonya had profound hearing loss and would need cochlear implants, the belief that she would not hear music as we do was one of the most distressing aspects of the diagnosis.

Now that Sonya is two years and five months (and has had cochlear implants since she was seven months old), I still don’t know what she hears when we play music. I do know one thing, however: she loves to dance!

Not only does she love to dance, I see her interpret music in her dance. She seems to hear the dynamics and the tempo. She is also an amazing mimic as she attempts to plie and arabesque. I don’t know exactly where she learned these moves. I am not exactly a great dancer.

I can’t get enough of the joy that radiates from her as she dances. I hope that other parents who have children with cochlear implants find some comfort in it too. We know so little about how the brain interprets sound electronically versus acoustically – especially for children implanted so young. Sonya’s love of music and dance shows us that at least for her, cochlear implants are not yet adversely impacting an appreciation for music.

If you are interested, check out my earlier posts on Sonya and music:

On Music

Suffering from Music Loss

Suffering from Music Loss

This post follows an earlier post On Music in which I discuss how we are approaching music education for Sonya.

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Sonya points to her ears when she hears Yan practice piano. “Ee!” she says, meaning “I hear it!”

This afternoon as Sonya napped, I did something I hadn’t done in a long while, I listened to music for fun. As Radiohead’s Separator played, I concentrated on the first dense and complicated beat, which in its second half drops into a gorgeous guitar melody. It’s impossible to describe. I want you to listen to it. It suddenly hit me that Sonya may never love it as I do.* It might not be something I can share with her when she is older and it pains me to think that.

Music used to play an enormous role in my life. My dad plays the piano and guitar. To avoid having to clean up after dinner as a kid, I would sit in the rocking chair in our living room and listen to him play. I wanted to be like him so I took up the instrument too, and then, in high school, the guitar. In college, I continued to study classical piano, folk music, pop, alternative rock and (a bit embarrassed as I write this) underground/old school hip hop.

When I want to reminisce about the time I spent in France, I listen to Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor and De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising album. Scenes of my early days in New York City are forever coupled with the music of Bob Dylan, Rakim and Horowitz – playing Scriabin. For most of my life, I fell asleep and woke up to music.

This changed once I knew Sonya was deaf. When we incorporate music into our playtimes, we do so purposefully in order to help Sonya understand how to listen. For example, rather than just enjoy a song in the background, we play the song, dance to it, and then stop the music to help Sonya understand to listen for sound. Months ago, (to my naive delight) Sonya would dance to what I believe was music in her head. Now she knows that she must hear music aloud to dance. She will now point at the computer when she wants to hear it.

We also refrain from having music on in the background, as background noise can make it more difficult for people with hearing loss to perceive speech sounds.

I miss music but I also must remember that I don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know whether Sonya will appreciate it when she is older. We don’t even know what she is hearing. She may hear the overall theme or rhythm, but she might miss the oftentimes subtle moments that make music so pleasurable.

For now, Sonya certainly appears to love it. Whenever Yan has a moment to practice piano, Sonya runs to living room pointing to her ears and shouting “EE!” her sign for “I hear it!”

*I do realize this might be the case regardless of Sonya’s hearing loss. Yan also hates Radiohead 🙂 

 

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