At seven-and-a-half, Tennyson memorized
the first seven verses of John 1 in Latin and
English in the homeschooling with Classical Conversations, a global home
education program based on the ancient
Classical model of learning. I set each text
to song and he downed them like dessert. T
adored the Latin and the third day or so said,
“I heard it last night [in bed]. It was beautiful
in my head and I loved it. It’s one of the most
beautiful songs ever, Mom.” The words in-
grained nice and deep; they’ve become a part
In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat
apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc
erat in principio apud Deum. Omnia per
ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est. In ipso vita erat,
et vita erat lux hominum: et lux in tenebris
lucet, et tenebrae eam non
comprehenderunt. Fuit homo missus a
Deo, cui nomen erat Joannes. Hic venit in testimonium ut testimonium perhiberet de
lumine, ut omnes crederent per illum.
In the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was with God, and the Word was
God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has
been made. In him was life, and that life
was the light of all mankind. The light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness
has not overcome it. There was a man
sent from God whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify concerning
that light, so that through him all might
According to Malcolm Gladwell, behind the genius of high-achievers that leaves us awestruck is really just 10,000 hours of practice.
Let’s see what this might look like for you as a drummer, Tennyson:
You’ve put in at least 500 hours thus far.
1 hour of practice a day, 35 free days in a year –>
the next 5 years –>
1650 hours plus the 500 = 2150 hours by the age of 12
The next 12 years, double the daily hour –>
660 hours every year, a total of 7920 hours
plus the ones from the first 12 years = 10,070 hours by the age of 24
Unless an earthquake brings this house down or you find yourself with a single parent, you will continue to have every opportunity to play. And even in the tightest straits we will sell the furniture before we touch your drums. Every hour on the set you’ll get to exchange for more options as an adult musician. Every hour brings your dreams that much closer within reach. You easily played for an hour-and-a-half when you were five. It is up to you whether you want to hit your 10,000 sooner or later than 24. But a good idea to develop your art as deeply as you can, find its place in our world before you settle down? Keep those two hours a day sacred and you will learn self-mastery, excellence, and your happier self. We know the more we love our music, the more we love it, right? Play your joy and never make excuses. I don’t want you to end up looking on as Joe blows smoke out of his set, saying “I could’ve done that.” He just practiced longer than you.
I shared this story with some friends last year, just before Mother’s Day:
I was in third grade. I awoke one morning in our New York one-bedroom to the sound of piano keys going. Mom’s surprise. She had saved I don’t know how long waitressing, for her dream. She’d never gotten to learn herself and had chased the vision of her daughter’s playing. Korean Mom of course had to get the best. I don’t know how in the world she managed to tuck away enough for a new Yamaha, a beautiful rich brown. Thankfully I picked it up easily, performed solos in elementary and junior high, went on to teach and compose. Mom said the apartment came alive whenever I’d play on visits from Pennsylvania during college and the working years. But when I relocated to California 11 yrs ago, the piano sat with no more songs; to Mom and Dad, the keyboard was a tangible part of their girl on the other side of the country, and to me always the testament of varicose veins a mother had earned waiting tables and walking in 11 at night.
With no other recourse, my parents sold the piano and were so thankful to be able to give me something when I got married. It was a bittersweet parting, for them and for me, but the practicality of it quieted my regrets. Though I was able to play on campus and at church during college, it’s been more than 20 years since I had a piano of my own. It so happens I married another dreamer. It hurt Peter for my parents to have had to sell the sacred memento of Mom’s love for me and, in his words, for my “talent to have gone unwatered” all these years. The piano that my husband has been saving for, prospecting, rolled in through the door yesterday morning. Shiny black, she slipped right into the console recess as if the space in the wall had been cut for her. The Yamaha looked made for our home. Tennyson was so excited watching Mom on the keyboard and Peter said I played as he’d waited for in his head.