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Oil painting is by my father, Naum Katsenelson
Lately I’ve been pondering on this question. At first, it was a subconscious decision. Somewhat by inertia, I was following in the footsteps of my parents. That’s what they did, and that’s what I’m supposed to do. However, I realized recently that I am re-gifting a gift. Instilling a love of classical music is one of the best gifts my parents gave me.
Just as in any typical Jewish family, my older brothers suffered through several years of music school. Neither one liked taking piano lessons, but they took them. My parents finally saw the writing on the wall and pulled them out of music school when my oldest brother pulled some keys off a piano keyboard.
I was spared from taking piano lessons but for a different reason: my mother passed away when I was ten years old. My father was suddenly alone with three kids. He signed me up for piano lessons, but when I showed little interest, he didn’t have the energy to nudge me further. I quit after only a small handful of lessons.
Eleven years later, when I was twenty-one, I took piano lessons again, this time completely of my own free will. But I didn’t want to start with the basics – that was too boring. I went right for the (classical music) jugular: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, my favorite piano concerto. Which also happens to be one of the most technical piano concertos ever composed. Needless to say, I failed at it miserably.
Both of my older kids have taken piano lessons, but neither one showed much interest (my youngest is only two and a half and has so far been spared). My wife and I tried different teachers, but in the end we realized piano was not in the cards for our oldest kids. It is my job as a parent to nudge my kids to try new things, and maybe push them a little (enough to overcome their natural laziness – it’s a lot more fun playing outside than practicing the piano). But at the same time, as a parent I need to know when to cut my losses and move on.
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Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, CFA, is Chief Investment Officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, Colo. He is the author of Active Value Investing (Wiley) and The Little Book of Sideways Markets (Wiley). His books were translated into eight languages. Forbes Magazine called him "The new Benjamin Graham".
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