I tell all my students this piece of wisdom: You’re Mormon, and you play the piano, so you can expect that you will be asked to play some hymns. It’s best to be prepared.
I start them on the simplified Hymnbook, and make them practice one hymn for a long time. Then I make them nervous by singing the hymn while they are playing it. (Pretty sure I’m the only piano teacher in creation that does this. Embarrassing, right?) After they can obey my cardinal rule for hymn playing, namely, that you can keep plowing through, even when you mess up, then I get them playing in the church’s training grounds for future ward pianists: Mutual.
This week was Ryan’s first experience playing for congregational singing. I asked the Young Men President to give Ryan a shot at playing during opening exercises, which he did. Ryan was pretty prepared, and had really practiced keeping the tempo through his mistakes. No matter where I was in the house, when he started playing that hymn, I started singing as loud as possible. Ryan asked me if I would be attending his mutual playing debut. I asked him if he wanted me to, and he quickly replied “NO.” I briefly considered sneaking in and peeking through the back door, but decided against it. Being his mom and his piano teacher makes me double invested in his success.
By all accounts, he did very well. Both boys reported that he stayed on tempo, and Ryan said he wasn’t even very nervous. Chip off the ol’ block, I guess. A couple more years of hymn playing, and he’ll be ready to tackle the next pillar of Mormon music… accompanying!