Apr 8, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect


Tara Nicole Thomas practices the piano. In the Thomas family multi-purpose piano room of course. She knows, as every oldest child does, that "idle hands are the devils playground (or-something-or-another)," "the early bird gets the worm," "haste makes waste," and of course... "practice makes perfect."

Now here, performing Fur Elise at the Hazel Owen's Elementary talent show. Fifth grade. I followed it up with an encore of Rock Me Amadeus. Everyone went nuts, 1.) because Falco was a big deal, and 2.) a McDonalds commercial with a little girl playing Fur Elise on the piano was super popular then, too. Tara Nicole Thomas also knows how to pander to the crowd.

Notice, top picture... with sheet music. Bottom picture... no sheet music. See, when it comes to the actual performance, uh, you're supposed to memorize it. I was a memorization machine.

Because I practiced.


Fast forward to the piano recital debut of Kathleen May Thomas.

Let's see. As the youngest child her childhood mottos were, "carpe diem," "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy," and, oh probably something like "turtle power!" (courtesy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)

Now, Kathleen is also a crowd pleaser (and a self-pleaser) so while I was choosing Canon In D and Hungarian Dance No. 5 for my recital numbers, she chose... Lean On Me.

Now, imagine the Lean On Me tune in your head:
Some. Times. In. Our. Lives. (five notes going up)
We. All. Have. Pain. (same notes going down)
We. All. Have. Sorrow. (now back up)
Now, just repeat.

Easy enough. Kathleen would groove those five notes for about five minutes after school. Then she'd run outside to rollerblade down our suburban sidewalks, or practice five equally non-challenging notes on her electric guitar over with the neighbor boy she was in love with.

Meanwhile I tsk, tsk, tsked her. "Kathleen! You have to practice. Even if you think you know your (lame) song, if you can't play it forwards and backwards in your sleep you will get super-nervous once you are up in front of everybody and you will completely forget it. You have to know it like a zombie. Like a robot. Like it's Memorex (another eighties ad slogan)!"

Okay, so maybe I sucked all the fun out of it. But I was just trying to prepare her for the real world.

So in this story the real world was recital day. Kathleen got up there at that grand piano, and she plunked out those first five notes notes. And then she stopped. And then she started again... plunk.. plunk,plunk,plunk, plunk. "Some. Times. In. Our. Lives..." and stopped again. And started again.

Ug. I just dropped my head in my hands in the third row with my family. Not very keeping in the Lean On Me Spirit, I know. Kathleen eventually just got up, looked embarrassedly at her piano teacher (pictured above) and walked off.

Mom took this picture of her and her teacher together afterwards. Mom's hand was mercifully shaky, or you would totally see that Kathleen was all lump-in-her-throat sad. Everyone was really nice to Kathleen. Even me. But I never let her forget it either.

So earlier this week all-grown-up Kathleen emailed me to tell me that her first public speaking gig was a huge hit. That she had fancy slides. That she made people laugh. That they asked tons of questions at the end, and she's even booked for another one coming up soon.

But mostly, she wanted to let me know that she practiced, practiced, practiced ahead of time.

You're welcome, Kathleen. You're welcome.

Okay, so not to paint Kathleen as a slacker. Obviously there are many things she is very disciplined about. Hello? Did you know her and Jeremy are in like their ninth week of P90X!? And have you seen how this girl eats?! Hard core.


  1. I know I probably say it each time but this might be my favorite story/post yet. Coming from a family of 3 sisters who all did our share of piano recitals (oh, how I remember Fur Elise) I think I was just between Practice Makes Perfect and Carpe Diem. After all, I couldn't miss all of my after school shows just to practice my piano!

  2. Thank you, Tara.

    And yup. I can pretty much blame my eating disorder / exercise bulimia all on that Lean On Me incident. (That's a joke) (Kind of).

  3. Ha! Thanks Mickie, you are a perfect blend of older and younger sister. And thanks for taking my post with a sense of humor, Kathleen. Now go do some one-armed push ups!

  4. I could use some speeches on practice and discipline. Can I be an adopted Thomas child?

  5. You may be adopted if you let your hair go naturally curly, Ashley. And you let us all take turns talking about ourselves for obscenely long amounts of time (you'd get your turn, too, but at any moment one of us could say "talk about me, now.") And if you do jigsaw puzzles in the piano room with us... because sadly, none of us play the actual piano anymore. So, look where practice got us.