What is it with the piano?

It is said that the future of classical music is bound inextricably to China’s rise. Parent here and you know why. The Chinese are obsessed with having their kids learn a musical instrument.  Chua’s now infamous memoir has barely a word about English, Math or even Chinese. Instead  all the emphasis, discipline and friction of family life center on teaching her kids music. In the West you can pick up a used piano basically for free. Here they are extremely valuable, because everyone wants one.

Chua tells of making her kids practice for hours and hours a day. This may seem excessive but talking to people here it doesn’t appear wildly unusual. One mom I spoke to last week told me she made her 6 year old daughter  practice at least 40 minutes a day. This weekend I was told of another who gets her 6 year old to put in 2 hours a day.

Why this obsession with piano? One possibility is that parents are making up for a creative deficit that they felt in their own childhoods. Few adults here had the opportunity to study piano when they were young. Writer Leslie Chang, who recently commented on the phenomena, believes it goes deeper. “I think there’s a complete Chinese obsession with piano and violin that’s probably genetically imprinted or something,” she said. My own take is that piano is popular because it so clearly rewards  hard work and  discipline. Practice for long enough and you are sure to learn the song.

Max has just started piano and I  insist that we practice every day — for about 5 minutes

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