I was maybe nine years old and had been playing the accordion for three years or so. I was pretty good at it, but because I was immersed in a pain-in-the-ass “I’m bored” phase, I had gotten lazy and was not practicing like I should. But every week, my Mom dutifully continued to drive me to lessons at the Central School of Music in downtown Louisville, where she would sit patiently in the corner, quietly observing the proceedings.
One week, I had a substitute teacher, a gentleman unknown to me. I was faking it, pretending that I had actually practiced my lesson assignment, when he stopped me. Turns out he had some points to make, politely, but in no uncertain terms:
1. You have talent, but you are lazy and unprepared.
2. You are wasting your time.
3. You are wasting my time.
4. You are wasting your parents’ time and money.
5. If you are not going to practice, quit.
All of this in front of my mother. I was mortified.
On the suddenly very long drive home, Mom didn’t say a word about this epic dressing down. In fact, she never mentioned it, like, ever. I am so very grateful to her for that.
After the initial shock and humiliation, I understood that I had a choice to make. More out of wounded pride than received wisdom, I decided that I would show this guy (whom, incidentally, I never saw again) and my mother that I was not about to give up. I was still a whiney-ass kid, but I realized what it would take to become a really good accordion player. So, I got serious about doing the work.
And it paid off. A few years later, I was placing in national competitions in the exotic municipalities of Chicago (twice), St. Louis, and - the ne plus ultra - Cleveland.
The more you practice, the luckier you get.