I wonder if Kate Middleton plays the piano?

12 03 2011

I live in a part of Crieff where parents find it necessary to send their children to public school, a practice that I neither understand or support but a topic which will wait another day!

I mention this purely to set the scene for my walk with the dog, where a significant minority of windows were filled with young children, still in their school uniforms, alongside an adult and both sitting in front of a piano.

Why is it that middle class parents will pay a fortune to tutors to teach their children a musical instrument?

Why has the importance of sitting Grade 6 piano settled itself so deeply in the middle-class psyche?

I have nothing against music. I can recognise most of the major classical pieces and some of those less well known. I can distinguish between Bach, haydn, Handel and Schubert with a reasonable degree of accuracy. I even like opera, well the tunes anyway. It’s only the screeching women and histrionics that make it impossible to listen to. I even taught myself to read music when I was pregnant with my son, who is himself now an accomplished drummer and composer of music.

But I digress.

Why music? Why the piano?

In my 50 years on the planet I have never been disadvantaged by not being able to play chopsticks. There are many occasions when I wished I had a better grasp of figures or could ask directions with a degree of fluency when in a foreign land but I have never been in a situation when my ability to play, or not play, the piano has been raised, let alone one where such as skill was seen as important or useful.

I don’t doubt that it might be nice to be able to tinkle the ivories and I am not suggesting that all learning should have immediate practical benefit but the question remains, why do middle class parents think that it is so important that their children learn the piano.

Why not Spanish?
Why not art?
Why not take them for a walk in the park and show them the wonders of nature?

I don’t have the answer but as you might guess if you have read my blog before, I do have an opinion!

I think it is aspirational. My view is that it harks back to the days when the upper classes had drawing rooms with grand pianos and afternoon soirees; when “play something for us Miss Bennett” was uttered by Mr Darcys throughout the country houses of England. The ability to entertain in such a genteel manner would be a useful skill for a middle class woman seeking to better herself by marriage into the aristocracy.

I wonder if Kate Middleton plays the piano?

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