11. June 2010 · Comments Off on Musicians’ Parents · Categories: Links, Other People's Words

My mother is always with me,” Lang confirms. “She packs my bag, makes sure I eat properly. Sometimes in the morning I can’t get up and she buys me some breakfast and in the evening she sometimes gives me a massage. It’s great.” He giggles. Earlier today, he says, he was going through U.K. customs and, after asking him the purpose of his visit, they asked him what his mother did. “I said: “She does what mums do.”?

Does he pay her? “No,” he says. “She just does it for the love of mother.”

Heh. Sounds like he thinks this is her role, eh? Probably because it’s all he knows. I love my kids, but one of the exciting and rewarding things about parenting is watching a child grow up and learn to live and manage things on his or her own. I can’t imagine them wanting me to manage their lives still.

Yeah … well, then there’s the dad and the story most of us have heard at this point, from Lang Lang’s younger days (he was only 9 or 10 at the time, from how the full story is told):

“You’re a liar and you’re lazy! You are horrible. And you have no reason to live. No reason at all.”

“What are you talking about?” Lang screamed.

“You can’t go back to Shenyang in shame! Everyone will know you were not admitted to the conservatory! Everyone will know this teacher has fired you. Dying is the only way out.”

Lang Guoren picked up a bottle of antibiotic pills and thrust them towards his son. “Take these pills! Swallow all 30 pills right now! Everything will be over and you will be dead!”

When Lang Lang fought back, his father ordered him to jump off the 11th-floor balcony. The boy only brought him to his senses by hammering his fists against the wall until they bled, shouting: “I hate my hands!” Suddenly the red mist lifted and Lang Guoren rushed over to his son to stop him doing any more damage. But for months Lang Lang wouldn’t talk to his father or play the piano; his rebellion only ending when he was 10 and he was finally accepted at the Beijing conservatory.

And then there’s this:

“Yo Yo Ma had a string tied to his leg at 5 a.m.,” Pellegrini says. “His father would go back to bed and if he heard him stop playing he would tug at the string. And today Yo Yo Ma doesn’t speak to his father.”

I ask the parents of my students to be the encouragers, and let me be the bad guy. Some follow that request. Others don’t. If I see a parent hounding the child a lot I tend to back off on my hounding. Granted, I don’t have a Yo-Yo Ma or Lang Lang … at this point anyway … but I just don’t think music should be that way.


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