Musically challenged

April 30, 2010 at 8:47 am (Uncategorized)

My parents were music majors. My mom taught piano for years, and my dad is a professional musician in an orchestra. Yes, that’s his job. Yes, he gets paid.

So, naturally, my two sisters and I were expected to have some musical abilities.

I started on piano and cello when I was four. I don’t remember much about that. When I was eight, they switched me to violin so that Older Sister and I wouldn’t be competitive with each other. That’s what we like to call “wishful thinking”.

Every week, Mom would drive me downtown for a private violin lesson with Mr. Sammy Piazza. That poor, poor man. He never knew what was about to hit him. Over and over again, every week, for five years. Right between the eardrums.

I was terrible and I hated it. If you’re terrible but you love it, you’re happy. Blissfully, ignorantly happy. If you’re talented but you hate it, you’re miserable but the people listening are probably happy. If you suck and you hate it, nobody wins.

Around my 13th birthday, Mom had another engagement and Dad had to take me to my violin lesson. Let’s just say we had a pretty serious “Come to Jesus” meeting in the elevator after that hour. He was horrified that his offspring could produce something that close to cat screeching after five years of private lessons. For me, though, it was the magical day that was the beginning of the end. It probably took a day or two for Dad’s ears to stop bleeding, but I don’t think there was any permanent damage.

Shortly after that blessed day, we moved to a horse ranch. My violin was sold to someone who could give it the life it deserved, and I got a 17-hand Thoroughbred named Woody. And there was, at last, harmony in the land.

I am glad that I have an appreciation for music, and they say musical instruction has some positive effects on early development, so there’s that. But my parents were clearly more tenacious and determined than I will ever hope to be. Although Younger Sister was not really subjected to the same musical curriculum. My memory of this might be skewed, but I’m pretty sure she was allowed to play whatever instrument de jour she felt like. Or not. Whatever.

Naturally, I married an Eastman-educated professional musician. Much of our early courtship was over the phone. I clearly remember him asking, “Are you a singer? Your voice is amazing.”

He’s spent the last 14 years begging me not to sing. Ever.

Even though I am incapable of producing anything that could be described as “music”, my critical evaluation skills are about 95% spot on. Just to make sure, I occasionally double-check with Husband when we’re watching American Idol.

“She sucks, right?”


“Whew. I’ve still got it.”



  1. charissimo said,

    I’m forever grateful to Dennis Plies, who, after 2 months of my horrid, HORRID piano playing mixed with the dull, lifeless look in my eyes, convinced my mom piano lessons were probably a waste of her hard-earned cash. I still love that man.

    • Mamma Gina said,

      I think my folks were still in the stage of parenting where they thought I needed to learn about hard work and determination and hoped it could overcome my lack of talent.

  2. Laurel Jacobson said,

    I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched Modern Family on tv (it’s well worth it if you haven’t). I can totally picture you writing for them; humor amongst family, yet a lesson at the end of it all. Lovely.

    • Mamma Gina said,

      Love that show! Did you know Ty Burrell, the guy who plays Phil (the dad of the family w/ 3 kids) went to SOSC? He was in a play that I catered for dinner theater. So, as my friend Scott says, that practically makes us famous.

  3. KarenP said,

    Charis–I’ve heard you sing. Piano may not be your thing but you can never claim to not be a musician. And Gina, I played with you and Jamie a few times back in the day. You could definitely carry a tune. Love the post, though!

  4. Jeff P. said,

    Well…not every song requires a Julie Andrews accent….

  5. Judy Diliberto said,

    Welcome to the world of parenting and the inequity of birth order! With the first one you are determined to make them reach their potential, with the second, there’s a little more leeway and a few more choices you allow them to make. With the third, you’re tired of the battle and say “whatever!” Maybe that’s why first-borns are type A and third-borns (like me) are laid back???

    • Gina Patterson said,

      And why middle children are perfectly adjusted?

  6. beta dad said,

    So you’re going to make your boys take lessons, right? How do you decide which instruments to force your children to play?

    • Gina Patterson said,

      Yeah, probably piano unless there’s some instrument they’re dying to play. If nothing else they can be a music appreciator, like me.

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