DALLAS — "The family that plays together stays together," believes family therapist Deane Graham, who says that shared activities such as playing the piano tend to enhance the natural bond between parent and child.
Graham, clinical services coordinator of Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Center for Family Studies in Chicago, sees a number of benefits from parents and children playing the piano together.
"Making music can be a particularly good shared activity," she says. "Parents and children can often participate on an equal level because musical ability does not necessarily depend on age or experience. This equality can be very esteem-building for a child.
"Also, there is a closeness that comes from working together on a project on an equal basis, which can be effective in bridging the generation gap."
Piano teacher Patricia Taylor Lee, author of several educational brochures for the National Piano Foundation, with headquarters in Dallas, sees playing piano as an alternative to other forms of relaxation.
"It offers a welcome physical and emotional outlet and an enjoyable form of recreation," she says.
Parents and children who play piano together also agree that music adds a special dimension to their relationship that other activities do not.
"You have to be really attuned to each other," says Jeanne Korpi, 46, of Escanaba, Mich., who plays piano duets with her son Christopher, 17. "You almost have to know what the other person is thinking."
Have Same Teacher
Korpi, a hospital medical technologist, has taken piano lessons off and on since age 10; Christopher started at age 12, and both study with the same teacher. Jeanne Korpi says she encouraged her son to study piano because "I think everybody should know the basics of music."
The Korpis work up three to four duets a year to performance level and play at recitals together, and separately, throughout the year. "It's lots of fun," Jeanne Korpi says, "and I know Christopher enjoys it too."
Carol Klose, 41, and her daughter Nicole, 12, of Pewaukee, Wis., are both so busy with their musical activities outside the home that the time they spend together at the piano is all the more meaningful.
"I love to see Nicole's face when we finish a song with a jazzy ending," says Klose, who started playing piano at age 6. She has a master's degree in music and teaches piano privately. Nicole also began lessons at age 6 and has studied with her mother for the past two years.
"We both love music in the same way, so when we play together it's twice the satisfaction and twice the fun," Carol Klose says.
Roy Grove, a salesman from Escanaba, Mich., says a shared love of music-making has added another dimension to his relationship with his three sons. "Music is a special language we share," he says.
Grove, 41, is working on a piano duet with son Paul, 16, that they will perform at a local music festival. Although he and his sons participate in a wide variety of other activities, Grove says several factors set playing the piano apart from some of their other shared pastimes.
"Music is one activity we're not likely to outgrow--not like tennis, where someday I'll be too old to play." Grove adds that, unlike sports, "with music everybody wins. It's a very non-competitive activity and it's a very pleasant thing to do together."