Learning from a Maestro

PianoI use the flight time on my regular trips between Australia and Taiwan as reading time.  I picked up a book a few days ago go called Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy.  My mistake was to begin reading the book because once I started I couldn’t put it down.

The book has lots of messages particularly for young golfers about how they should approach coaching and learning.

In the book Paul Crabbe is a young talented pianist living in Darwin in the mid-1960s.  His parents organise for him to be coached by an Austrian who is living in a local hotel.  There is a bit of mystery surrounding the Austrian piano teacher, Eduard Keller, but that is for you to find out when you read the story.

Paul can’t wait to show off his piano prowess, so is put out when the first lessons are learning about each of his fingers and what their roles and personalities are in playing the piano.  Once he has heard what all the fingers do, he is told he has to listen rather than play.  Of course this frustrates and infuriates him as he believes he deserves more respect for his playing ability from his teacher.

He excels in piano exams and is accepted into the Conservatorium in Adelaide.  He is so sure of himself and his abilities that he is impatient to show them off in competitions. He does win competitions, but never the major ones.

Over time he slowly recognises the benefits of the training he received from Keller.  He also has the insight that his impatience and belief that he was beyond needing to constantly reinforce the basics have actually hampered his progress.

Late in the book, Eduard Keller is in hospital and lived for only a few days after Paul came to his bedside.  With his death, Paul realises that any chance of working with him again in the hope of becoming a truly great pianist have gone.

Paul’s thinking reminded me very much of the Karate Kid where Daniel was being taught karate by Mr Miyagi.  He was frustrated at what he perceived to be a slow learning with him also being asked to perform lots of menial tasks such as painting a fence and polishing a car.

It was the lessons he was learning through doing these tasks that was important.  He was building the motor patterns that would spontaneously emerge in his karate.

Among the many messages I took from Maestro is the need to continually reinforce the fundamentals, no matter how far beyond them I feel I might be.  For me they are the fundamentals of good coaching.

Now I need to find another book to read for my trip next week.  Any suggestions?


“What is the difference between good and great pianists?  Not much.  Just a little.”
Eduard Keller


Install this web app on your Android: Tap menu, more options, and then Add Shortcut To Homescreen.×

Comments are closed.