Asian parents always want to refine their children. This includes enrolling them in music lessons at a very young age until about the beginning of high school. But not just any kind of music lessons: piano or violin ‘edification.” (At times, flute is acceptable too.) These instruments symbolize, to many Asians, the epitome of refinement. It isn’t too different from the English during the Regency and Victorian periods when a young middle class woman’s ability to play piano was a sign of her sophistication. This asian refinement is a sign of accomplishment because the asian parents are able to ‘afford” these frills. The children, due to their parents constant struggle to show other parents up, are forced to take these lessons.
The piano is considered by asians as the core instrument that one learns in order to first understand the essentials of music. Why? In order to successfully know how to play piano, asians must know how to read both the treble and bass clefs. That means understanding the intricacies of a whole other language at the ripe age of 3, which in turn, allows most asian children to comprehend how to efficiently use their left and right brain hemispheres at an earlier age. Do you ever wonder why asian children are so gifted mathematically and spatially? That’s your answer. Asians will also enroll their children in musical classes to serve the community.
For Asian-Christian families, the ability to play piano means that the child can have his or her turn at ‘performing” during church services. That way, Mrs. Chung can brag (more on bragging below) to everyone that it’s her Jenny out there playing ‘”˜Praise My Soul’ like an angel.” The accolades don’t end in the congregation hall. That’s why pianos are, most importantly, expensive. To have one in the living room is a subtle (in an asian sense) way of telling everyone that the Asians are keeping up with the ‘Joneses” (or the Wongs).
In asian circles, piano is the choice instrument, followed very closely by the violin. The violin is often a preference because it’s small and portable, great for young children. Asian kids start private music lessons as kindergarteners (before they start learning how to use chopsticks, but after they start their introductory calculus lessons), or even while in pre-school (I had my first piano lesson just before my 4th birthday)! The sound it makes is very soft and smooth when playing strictly classical music (a proper Asian kid does NOT fiddle). The violin, like piano, is also more likely to be a ‘star” instrument, which will more times than none draw more attention to the child’s parents.
To Conservative Asians, most other instruments are a no-no. Especially brass instruments and instruments associated with bands and more popular music. To Asian parents, instruments such as trombones, saxophones, trumpets, percussive drums, guitar (especially ELECTRIC GUITAR) are blasphemous. Asian parents don’t want their child to risk becoming evil rock musicians! Asian kids must be proper. They must be able to play the kind of music that can be heard at church or when family friends visit. They must be able to read at a 5th grade level before they are potty-trained. And most importantly, they must learn how to haggle with other children when trading lunches in order to achieve the most economical utility.
Note from Author: Acceptable instruments other than piano and violin include: flute, clarinet, oboe, cello (only after Yo-Yo Ma became a big star), and vocal ensembles. (At my middle and high schools, the flute sections at ensembles were overwhelmingly Asian while brass instruments were white.) The guitar is allowed after the age of 18, when children are legal adults and want to play sad songs about how the girl in Multi-Quantum Physics isn’t digging their outfit or accepting their invitations to buy boba (but let’s save that for a later post).
Asian parents absolutely love to brag. They like to tell their friends how good their kids are at certain things and this is especially true with music. In
Asians, in some situations, will even cause scuffles with other parents over how superior their own children are. ‘My child played that song beautifully.” ‘Your child ruined an entire classical masterpiece! Didn’t you hear that A-flat that they played instead of an A Sustained Minor 7 Flat Sharp Skinny Dull Chord with Base Triad? I’m calling the competition director.” Some Asians go as far as recording competitions in order to show other parents how much better their own children are. ‘He sure looks good on camera. His glasses glistening in the sun are so much better than your child’s glasses-less face with non-existent eyes!” The use of instant replay makes its debut at this time (about 8 years old), but is used later on during many other competitive situations by non-relenting asian parents.
Asian parents will allow their children to play only the piano or violin up to a certain age because that is when they are still able to brag about a child’s success as the product of their own perseverance and planning. They will proceed to brag about their children to make it known that their children can play classical works spotlessly. For these reasons and more, Asians love the Piano and Violin.
Note from Author: I have to admit though: taking classical music is great discipline for kids. It keeps them out of trouble, and causes fewer injuries than sports. It must be my Asian-ness showing, because I will definitely be encouraging any kids I have to take music lessons. However, if they want to play an ‘improper” instrument or want to quit because they just aren’t musical, that’s fine with me too. There are other things that a kid is good at. Not all kids are musical.
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