Alicia Keys Wanted to Quit Piano

April 5, 2023 Barbie Wong

When Alicia was five, she fell in love. Her kindergarten teacher had brought in a pianist to perform for her class and the moment Alicia saw and heard the piano, she was hooked. She really wanted to play the piano. “Mommy never had to push me toward the piano,” Alicia remembers. Her mom Terry Augello was a single mom and worked hard to make ends meet. Nevertheless, she could tell that Alicia was serious and arranged for Alicia to take piano lessons with Margaret Pine, a wonderful teacher. “From the first C-major chord I struck, I was smitten.”

By the time Alicia turned eleven, she decided she would rather hang out with her friends than practice. Alicia approached her mom and tried to explain how they could save money if she quit piano. What happened next would change Alicia’s life forever. Alicia recalls: ‘My mother flatly refused. “Quit what you like,”she told me, “but you’re not quitting the piano”.’

By refusing Alicia’s request to quit, Alicia’s mother did something very powerful. She clearly saw her daughter’s musical potential. She knew her daughter was struggling with practice but did not allow those temporary difficulties to push her off track. They ended up compromising. Alicia had to take lessons and practice during the school year but could have the summers off.

“Mommy knew then what I know now,” Alicia explains. “I was put on the planet to play.”

How many parents give in to their child’s request to quit lessons when things get hard? Please don’t get me wrong. There are a variety of reasons why kids quit lessons, and sometimes it is a good idea to quit. Plus, parents who let their kids quit music are not bad parents. But if kids quit because they simply find it hard, then it’s time to rethink the purpose of music lessons. Learning an instrument takes work–a lot of hard work. Practice is not always fun, and parents must know this if they want to fully support their child’s musical journey. In fact, it’s important for children to also understand that there are ups and downs when it comes to learning music. Resistance is normal. Even I have days when I have to drag myself to the piano.

If your child ever wants to quit lessons, recall Alicia Keys’ story and see if you can harness her mom’s strength and clarity. I have never heard an adult say, “I wish my parents never supported my music lessons.” Usually, I hear the opposite: “I wish I had continued with lessons.” What follows is often a sigh and a look of regret. We adults see the world so differently from kids. We can see the big picture, so let’s keep that in mind while helping our children navigate the many bumps in the road that are inevitable with learning music. Keep going and stay strong!

Looking for ways to keep kids interested in music? Check out my post on fun ideas to get kids excited about music.