My wife Louise and I recently visited my cousin and her husband for a delightful evening meal. At some point in the evening, conversation turned to footwear, and my cousin was appalled to learn that I often wear slippers when teaching in my home studio.
Inevitably, I was quickly ganged up on, the object of much mirth. To be honest, it was a bit harsh. Jibes included:
“How old did you say you are again – 87?”
“Do you wear pyjamas and a dressing gown too?”
And even …
“Are you trying to look like Hugh Heffner?”
Now I ask you, what kind of question is that?
Gamely, I tried to defend myself with:
“…but slippers are really comfortable when playing the piano…”
But of course this quickly led to:
“So do all your pupils bring slippers to wear too?”
Which got me thinking …
Piano playing, especially at more advanced levels, involves some fancy footwork. But I can’t help wondering how players manage when they choose to wear fancy footwear. Take, for example, these heels…
I can’t imagine those shoes helping with pedal control – although to be fair, they seem not to diminish Yuja Wang’s stunning pianism!
At the opposite end of the sartorial spectrum, Alice Sara Ott …
Personally, I’m not into the barefoot approach either (just look at that wonderfully relaxed wrist though!). But I do tend to avoid boots that hinder ankle movement, and any shoe where the heel is fairly thick.
I find slippers ideal. But how odd that we humans develop such wonderfully practical and comfortable clothing, only to then make it socially unacceptable to wear!
So – why shouldn’t I and my students wear slippers? Of course we can, and in the case of many of my students it would be far preferable to them keeping on whatever footwear they wore to work or school that day.
Which brings me, somewhat uncomfortably, to the story of Rupert…
Those of a more sensitive disposition, and the easily offended, would do well to skip this section. But the rest of you might enjoy the story of Rupert (not his real name, obviously).
Rupert was an enthusiastic ten-year-old who came bounding into his piano lesson one dark autumnal evening a few years ago, having trodden in something unspeakable between his front door and my piano stool.
It’s probably best not to describe the scene that unfolded, but suffice it to say that I will happily go the rest of my piano-teaching career without ever again having to wipe faecal matter off the sustain pedal.
I think it’s perhaps time to have a new policy in my studio: Please bring slippers or “indoor shoes” to change into for the lesson.
What do other teachers think? What rules do you have for footwear in your studio?
Do leave a comment below and let me know!
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