After class one day, as I was headed to the bus, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Cannon stopped me, handed me a sealed envelope, and asked me to give it to my parents. Her tone was friendly; still my stomach got knotted up with anxiety wondering what was in the letter.
My father was home and stood there as my mother read the letter. She started talking immediately to my father, and I was not sent away because they forgot I was there. Otherwise I probably never would have heard what was in the letter.
Miss Cannon had written that she believed I had some musical abilities and that I might benefit from piano lessons. Some parents might have been made happy by such a letter and thinking that their child might have some talent. Not mine. My mother immediately became upset. Lessons cost money. And how would they get me to the lessons. My father had work, and my mother didn’t drive. And surely I would have to practice. That would require a piano, an upright of course, and they could not afford one of those. But they could rent, she imagined, but where she wonder could they put a piano in that tiny house; the front room—well, there was no room there either.
My mother became such a wreck thinking about all the reasons I couldn’t have piano lessons that I wished I hadn’t shown a talent in the area. Later, she asked if I would miss having piano lessons, and what with her pathetic whining tone and what I had heard before, the only answer to that was “no.” She said I was wise because musicians lead horrible lives, never make any money, and become alcoholics.
So it’s just as sociologists have said. The musical instrument of the middle class is the piano. Some educator, in an article about struggles over homework, mentions how his mother sat and listened to him encouragingly while he played and how he was doing the same thing for his own son. What! The idea of my mother sitting and listening to me work on my scales fills me with terror.
I have a guitar now—just a 300 buck one–; that’s the instrument of the working class.
Someday before I die I will buy a Martin.