I suppose it's odd that I've never written a whole post about piano until now. I have mentioned before that I teach piano lessons and that I decided not to pursue a college degree in music. I'm studying with my own piano teacher in what I'm calling an "apprenticeship" to improve my teaching abilities, while continuing to learn new pieces myself. This, obviously, is counter to what our culture and society expects, and I suppose that part of the reason I don't like bringing it up is because when I am forced by polite and well-meaning conversationalists to explain what I'm doing with myself, I'm never sure exactly how they will respond. Mostly I get puzzled or blank looks and a confused "that's nice..." Rarely do I ever get the "What?!? You can't do that, you really must go to college!" but that's always what I am most afraid of receiving because it provokes me to rant about the lengthy thought process that went into my decision, and who are they to decide what I must do with my life anyway?!? Often, I am surprised by how encouraging people can be though, and I so appreciate the kind and thoughtful responses. I firmly believe that college was not the right route for me, but that does not mean that I think it's wrong for everyone!
Piano and I had a sort of rocky beginning when I was 8. I liked it, but I didn't really like to practice much (I still think it's more fun just to sit there and play things I've already learned!) and I mostly just wanted to play outside with my friends and siblings. By the time I entered my teens, though, I was much more serious about piano. For the first couple of years of high school, I was planning on going to college, and I was so happy that I already knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I loved playing piano, but I didn't enjoy performing, so I definitely wasn't going to be an aspiring concert pianist. As a big sister, I liked to teach my siblings anything they would let me, so it was easy to decide that combining piano and teaching into a career would be perfect. I had my top choice colleges picked out, worked hard in math so I would be able to get a decent score on the SAT and made sure my piano teacher knew that I intended to go to college as a piano pedagogy major. But something happened in my sophomore year, when my teacher presented me with the college audition pieces she wanted me to begin preparing. There was this weird, cold, sinking feeling in my chest that I couldn't shake. It wasn't fear, it was just lack of peace. In Christian terminology I suppose it would be called "a check in the spirit." It wouldn't leave.
I began praying very seriously about college, and thinking about the possibility of skipping college. Until then, it hadn't even occurred to me that I might not attend college - everyone went to college, and I wouldn't be a "successful" homeschooler if I didn't prove to society that I could out-perform my public-schooled peers in the higher education system, right? Wasn't that actually the only way to become a real piano teacher? I had already begun teaching a few beginners piano lessons (it's pretty popular in the homeschool community to have high school students teach music, art, etc. to younger beginning students) but that was with the approval of my teacher, and she often gave me tips. She once told me that she believed it should be illegal for anyone to teach music without an appropriate degree, but then went on to assure me that since I was teaching under her guidance, and since I intended to go to college, what I was doing was okay. That was burned into my memory.
The first decision that I made was to postpone my potential college entrance so I would have more time to make my decision. Taking a "super"-senior year was also popular in my homeschool group, and since my birthday fell in the right range, I could continue to compete on the homeschool swim team an extra year if I waited to graduate. The next step I made was to quit lessons with my piano teacher. I suspected that I wouldn't end up attending college, and since I didn't want to face her wrath for teaching without that degree, I left. I took a whole year off from piano lessons before I found a new teacher, and that's when my vision for a college-free future finally started to become clear.
At that point, I had not completely decided that I would forgo college. It seemed easier just to pay for those 4 years and that official sheet of paper, fulfilling everything society expected of me, and then continue with my piano teaching unhindered, and with a conscience unburdened by my former instructor's opinion of degree-less piano teachers. I didn't want to drop my piano students to attend college, however I knew that if I did go to college, I would have to be completely focused on school, at least at first. I still wanted to go to college, to avoid the effort of going against the current and experience the whole new world of college but that cold, "wrong" feeling in my heart still weighed on me, and I was becoming more and more convinced that I wasn't meant to attend.
Finally, as my "fleece" (Judges 6:36-40) in my senior year I began to pray that God would use my own students as a sign. If He wanted me to go to college, he was going to have to make all 6 of them quit. If He continued to let me have students, I was going to believe that was His approval for my teaching without a degree, and I would continue teaching until (and if) He ever gave me a new direction. Most of all, I wanted that weird, cold feeling to go away, and for peace about the right decision to fill my mind.
By the end of my senior year, none of my students had quit, and I realized that I did feel peace about staying home and apprenticing with my wonderful new piano teacher. She is such a sweet Christian lady, who encourages me in more than just musical pursuits, and I never fail to leave inspired and invigorated by my lesson with her. Each year, my own studio has only grown in number of students, and I feel such delightful confidence knowing that I am doing what God means for me to do. Without the burden of classes, papers, exams and studying, I have had time to be part of my family, to learn more about health, cooking, money management and many other responsibilities that go into a household, besides continuing to study piano and enjoying the part music has in my life.
I don't mean this to be an attack on those who did attend college, and I hope those who did choose college don't feel that they must reprimand those who make different decisions. We are all different people, and God has different plans for all of us. I love piano, and greatly enjoy teaching, but piano just isn't my whole life. I always want God to be my focus, and college isn't part of His plan for me. This turned into a extremely long post, but this is my entire heart on the subject, and I am relieved to have it all said. If you made it through this whole post, I am impressed!