The “Piah-No” (Or, Rockstar’s First ABRSM Exam – A Story About Music Lessons)

Cont’d from previous post’s Guess Where The Miss…


Where in the world was Miss Wally?

Where in the world was Miss Wally?

Rockstar had a music exam

A: Where Rockstar had a music exam. Though…  that’s not taken on the actual exam day, pictures not allowed then…

Rockstar took his first ABRSM (Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music) exam in grade 2 piano, recently. The exam venue was in a place with not a few tuition centres but we had actually never been here before exam season (so no, the Miss is not learning English at “Monkey Tree” tuition centre (or really, anywhere else other than at her ESF Kindy)

We don’t know the results of Rockstar’s exam yet, but were only hoping for a “pass” anyways <shrugs>. Just cos he’d been casually taking music* for awhile, we kinda figured may as well get a piece of paper along the way. Just because “playing the piano” can be anything from Child Protege (NOT… any child o’mine :D) to Circus Monkey and between.

Grade 2, not 1, only because the centre he’s enrolled in changed teachers twice and everyone somehow missed the closing dates to enrol him. (I finally enrolled him as a private candidate outside the school.)

*Rockstar’s not particularly musical; one reason I then planned on him doing some music when younger was because he was quite heavily “skewed” in one direction, in terms of interests. He generally didn’t like to sing, dance or paint (instead being comfy with say, numbers), he went almost the entire 2 years of kindergarten not exploring the sandpit (texture is another issue – some days even the non-slip flooring of swimming pools can bother him), we used to drop by kindergarten only to find him quietly walking up and down the mostly-empty stairwells during open play while the other kids would be noisily playing outside. Used to be, one bump from some passing kid on the playground would have him retreating into himself. (So… taekwondo tournament!)

Like, if your kid has a problem with being bumped into, what do you do? Stick him in a fighting ring to get kicked about, of course! Parenting tip for the day. Dones.

Remember this? Like, if your kid has a problem with being bumped into, what do you do? Stick him in a fighting ring to get kicked about, of course! Parenting tip for the day. Dones. (Dusts off hands)

But back to music – it was at the back of my mind that Rockstar might miss growing a few erm, “music-related neurons” as he grew up.     

Anyway – two trial runs at the music exam centre because we don’t have a real piano at home yet. About 10 years ago before the kids were born we got this ~HKD 5,000 electric keyboard “piano” so as not to totally lose Grade 8 piano muscle memory (I too, scraped through by the skin of my teeth with the most lowly of “pass”es! Yippee!) and the kids have just been using that for years.

Well if you have nothing to play on then… maybe get the piano? Just that I got my own Grade 8 growing up on a third-hand piano propped under one corner with bits of wood because the mutt dogs in my (then Penang) home who perpetually tore about the place chasing cicaks (house lizard) and the occasional sewer rat dug off one old rusty wheel going after either a stray chew toy or cicak one day. As my Grade 8 drew near, the F key nearest the middle C no longer worked. But we were all “Yah, not taking any more exam after this, already came so far with this piano…”

(I am aware re pianos this is really not how many parents with musically inclined kids who are more serious about music education will think. This is my Have Faith, And Faith Will Be Given Ye Fake It ‘Til You Make It speech :P)

So, anyway. Didn’t care about the nice piano very much, not for a first exam, maybe if we are still doing it in a couple more grades then we’ll see… Do note however that I do have mum friends who rent really nice pianos on a monthly basis for first exams. We don’t do that because those pianos require heaters, dehumidifers, and preferably also a lack of shedding dog and active kids – remember Never Have Cheap Glass Near The Kids? At the end of the day renting piano might mean ending up “buying” a wrecked rented piano. Even worse.

Rockstar didn’t exactly want the extra pressure to keep at piano lessons either – which brings us to the bit I did care about: how Rockstar actually feels about piano/ music. He wouldn’t play his exam pieces for the prerequisite few minutes a day (as in, less than 10 mins) – but would dabble with keyboard fingering in a similar way to his fidgeting with the mountain of Lego in his room to build mutant freak creations – and then on the day of his lesson he would rush through the stuff he was supposed to do with the teacher.

(Oh, you thought I have a kid who loooves homework and practice? <snort> Non-competitive kids who don’t prize winning lack this otherwise powerful motivator – Rockstar has same-aged schoolmates who were at Grade 5 level last year, if I remember correctly. That’s uh, seven years old. Rockstar doesn’t have school music extra-curriculars (just regular school music) but we had a neighbour who had moved here not too long ago from the States whose daughter was, “Uh…. they’re. Good, Mum. Over here, they’re really, really good,” when her mum asked if she was trying out.)

It’s hard to rationalise regular practice with a non-competitive kid while they can still get away with super last minute work and Youtube the rest of their time away – so we have this particular “fight” every few weeks/months. The Can You Get Used To 10 Minutes Hard Work A Day Before You End Up A Homeless Bum Fight. Because we live in Exaggeration City. It’s on the border of But-Mum-My-Math-Homework-Turns-Out-Just-Fine-When-I-Dangle-Upside-Down-Off-The-End-Of-The-Sofa-With-My-Feet-Up-Against-The-Wall Land. It’s hard to balance between too difficult and too easy – on the one hand you don’t want them to just give up, but then I really don’t like it either, when kids get through something on very little effort because then they think they always only need very little effort.)

Then Rockstar had a music tutor who was on my back to get a “real” piano. After being nagged several times about the problem with keyboard touch, I went to the address she gave me and the cheapest piano in that store was around HKD 50,000. Most of ’em were more like HKD 80,000. For that kinda price you need caps and an uppity accent.

Issa Piah-No.

I was unconvinced about The Piah-No. But come exam time I listened, when she said “better let him try on the exam piano because it is a  real Piah-no.” Why yes, that deserves the accent too. “Real Piah-no” at the exam centre rents for HKD 280 per 30 minutes. And I almost didn’t get a slot because I sat on booking it weeks in advance. (Seriously. You have to book it several weeks in advance. I assume this is by the many mums in Hong Kong just like moi, who never buy Piah-No for their kids’ first exam.)

One look at Rockstar’s face when his 30 minutes are up, and I ask the bookings lady if there is anything left for him to have a second trial. (On the inside, I’m smugly thinking You See You See Never Practice Some More Lah. Now Scared Or Not? But by the time Rockstar reads this he would’ve sat for the exam ages ago so he can go on piano strike all he wants now.)

There is just one 30 minute slot left, late at the end of the day when everything else has closed, for the rest of exam season at this centre. I take it.

Minecraft Camp, Last Day

But I didn’t move this. Minecraft III Final Day Challenge (And oh look, he has now grown perm teeth way too big for his head.)

Rockstar exits the exam room.

Rockstar: I think I’ll pass. I was so, so lucky, the sight reading they gave me was easy.

Me: <starts – sight-reading is his weakest> Are you sure you didn’t miss something, did you check the key signature?

Rockstar: <nods firmly> Yes I got it, I saw. 

Me: Umm… <still unsure> I was reading some of the (past) transcripts on the board – there’s someone there with a strong merit – like, just a couple marks from distinction – and the examiner actually wrote that they got practically every single item in their aural test wrong. Still merit. You can fail something and still pass the whole thing anyways.

Rockstar: When are the results out? When are they when are they when are they – 

Me: You realise the only reason you’d want to know how you did is because you think you did well. Iimagine and remember how very different that would feel, if you weren’t prepared and thought you might fail. Be dreading every day until the inevitable, when we get the results.

And here’s more preachy stuff. (Be warned)

On piano exam day you can say to yourself:

A) “I don’t have The Piah-No. I’m doomed.” or

B) “‘Piah-No’ is awe-sum. If I could do all that stuff on the lesser piano, think how much better I’m gonna be, when I get to use da good stuff!”

Friend of mine training on NTU varsity taekwondo team used to walk the several hundred meters from hostel to lecture theatre and go about his day with weights strapped to his ankles.

When you are used to training (or really, doing anything) with weights on, one day when the weights come off, you discover you can fly. 

Your weights (sorry) in life are awesome that way. Have a good week ahead, dears…

pic of Michael Jordan in Spacejam from

“I believe I can flyyyyy….. I believe I can touch the skyyyyyy…..” pic of Michael Jordan in Spacejam from


The day of his actual music exam was also his last day of Minecraft III camp. I was quite happy about this, because then he barely remembered he had the music exam (WE ONLY WANT A PASS. And to well, not end up in therapy) – he had to do a Redstone build of a “smart house,” and it was a total blessing he won the challenge by a wide margin, thereby earning that particular limited-edition Minecraft Sheers keychain that apparently you can only get from the school, which he is holding up in the pic above.

(I. know. Like, what music exam? Who cares about the lady who flies halfway round the world to hear you play and in 10 minutes passes swift and lasting judgment over whether you are any good. Ish.)

Also, it wasn’t a school day. Rockstar was in school uniform because during one of the trials they looked at his Nikes and said, “Remember not to let him wear those on exam day. He has to wear leather shoes, exams here are more formal so if he’s not going to dress up <Rockstar shakes his head vigorously> at the very least put on full school uniform.” So y-eah. He ended up winning Minecraft III Challenge in that too.

ps: Not planning to take ABRSM every year; otherwise this kid who isn’t exactly performance-driven in music will learn ONLY exam pieces <roll eyes>

pps: Almost every day since, Rockstar comes home and….. plays his (now past) exam pieces. Because he’s annoying.

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Superheroes and Superpowers Weekender

Been awhile (again) since the last linkie…

Hands up, whose kids get influenced by all kinds of media stuff, at least some of which you would rather stick ’em in a hole so they never hear of, much less Google it……..

Because he’d found Scratches of Batman v Superman among others, Rockstar had a mild fascination with Superman in particular (he says Batman is too cynical about life so he prefers the alien). Thus began our conversation about powers:

Rockstar: …..So d’you think the real guy in the Superman movies also has powers? I mean like, super strength and speed, just not the flying or heat vision? D’you think there could really be superheroes from science accidents?  

Me: They’re actors. Sure some actors have to be especially physically fit for the role, but the original guy who played Superman was only acting as Superman…. right up until he had an accident in real life that is.

The late great Christopher Reeve as the original Superman

The late great Christopher Reeve as the original Superman – pic from

And then he became a real life superhero.

A year after a fall while riding left him paralysed from the neck down, Christopher Reeve appears onstage at the 68th Academy Awards to prolonged standing ovation

A year after a fall while riding left him paralysed from the neck down, Christopher Reeve appears onstage at the 68th Academy Awards to prolonged standing ovation – pic from

Superheroes exist in real life, they just don’t wear costumes. Or rather, instead of colourful spandex, cape and an irritating cowlick, their “costumes” look more like wheelchairs or a lack of limbs.  

I've mentioned this guy before; aside from being a motivational speaker, he also appears to talk to teenagers with body issues - pic from

I’ve mentioned this guy before; aside from being a motivational speaker in general, he mentions counselling teenagers with body issues – pic from

Motivational speaker Nick Vujicic talks about how he has no limbs, and yet can fly (having travelled to countless countries as a motivational speaker)

We got the childrens’ books too; Nick Vujicic talks about how he has no limbs, and yet can fly (having travelled to countless countries as a motivational speaker)

It’s terrifying, yet true bravery, achievement and heroism is only through strife. Life sucks <shrugs>. I mean, something that costs you nothing is worth just that <shrugs again>. (Like I said, Life Sucks, but…)

Grumpy Cat agrees!

Grumpy Cat* agrees!

(*On an aside, Tardar Sauce or, to use her celebrity name Grumpy Cat, Internet and Meme Phenom, is an accomplished coffee table and self help book model.)

In David and Goliath (which is, among others, a book about underdogs and how sometimes they’re “underdogs” only through our eyes), Malcolm Gladwell talks about the secret advantage of “disability”. Gary Cohn, President and COO of Goldman Sachs whose life and career experiences are cited in the book, has described his dyslexia, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my disability.”

I mean, isn't this just a freaking ugly cat. Hello, national tv.

I mean, isn’t this Just One Freaking Ugly Cat. Besides Fox News there’s probably also an Ellen spot in there, and you know NASA’s gonna wanna talk to this thing. (It’s a real cat, right? Not like, an alien?)

In other words…

Milk it, Baby.


pics from 50 Funniest Grumpy Cat Memes.

Ok, I’m sorry, while messing with the Memes I found another one I have to further digress with:

I mean, of course Jesus, Moses, Buddha and Tom Cruise have public Facebook accounts

Of course Jesus, Moses, Vishnu, Buddha, Steve Jobs and Tom Cruise have Facebook accounts and want to be your Friend. And I think God is on Twitter, along with the Mars Rover.

From Best Memes 2012 (this is my out for showing this horrible thing. “Jesus” btw is Facebook Update-ing a line from New God Flow, off Kanye West’s Cruel Summer album.)

There’s a convoluted aside in there about how when your kids are old enough to read there will come a time when you will not want them to. Then again:

How many words do you need for this?

How many words do you need for this?

This is from Daredevil Teens Take Extreme Selfie Video. It doesn’t say, but I suppose this might be illegal, and a little risky to life and limb?

Oh, I’m no fun?  Just a sec while I post these, before I respond to that:

15160_212818956702_964566_n-2 15160_212805726702_5109828_n-2 15160_212805756702_2342404_n-2  15160_212881301702_2824236_n-2

Old blog post here, video here.

(Formatting – this is not too long after we first moved the blog to WordPress, having been on Kings’ old dream blog platform that he aspired to build, back then – Kings transferred the early posts hurriedly and without telling me, when he first decided to leave off the platform, which basically meant I would then lose the blog a few years in… Yes that’s why I even have one – the hub once needed an experimental blog to slice and dice. The blog has been taken apart and nearly flatlined more than once.)

Now back to my point about the Daredevil Teens: No these aren’t cool abilities, these kids are being incredibly irresponsible. They could get hurt, they could inspire other kids to try it and get hurt. (In fact, some already have.) So says the boring, gutless, near-middle-aged, otherwise-relatively-social-media-shying little killjoy who jumped out a plane at 15,000 feet.

(Remember I said I started out blogging only because the hub needed a Frankinblog to take apart? That included building traffic, but that was the worst bit because I couldn’t sleep when the blog first got publicised. Now I at least think it’s good for something – pressure to keep my thoughts (and typing) in check as I parent, in a way I can’t do if I have less accountability and can say anything without publicly signing my name to it. It forces me to “clean up my act”.

Can’t remember which famous motivational speaker I first heard say it – you can’t parent effectively with hypocrisy. The kids won’t listen to you (hell, even without the hypocrisy it’s almost impossible to get them to listen to you). I think it’s going to be a few more years of not getting arrested for stuff just because you don’t want your kids to go to jail (:D this is of course an exaggeration – I remember a mummy boss heading a mid-sized dealing room who bemoaned her loss of tv privileges when her 10 year old had exams – see how LIFE SUCKS? Kids are incredibly selfish, incapable of being blind to your transgressions even as you proceed to ban them from tv, alcohol, candy, recreational drugs, boyfriends/girlfriends, social media gossip, Candy Crush, smoking, spending too much on clothes/shoes/devices/buying pets/buying cars/buying tvs/ buying computers/ buying cellphones ok you get my drift :P)

For real though – every time you “like” one of these Daredevil Teen things on social media, you are another (otherwise) unnamed stranger encouraging someone else’s kid to take a horrible risk. Nope, I never thought of it this way either, until someone with 4 teenaged children mentioned it.

It's a myth, that you need ti do something a little "naughty" to get that adrenaline kick. This one's done with a fully qualified instructor who does about 12 jumps a day

It’s a myth adrenaline is illegal.

Here’s a “daredevil” teen/tween who got his kicks being um, just very hardworking at the tasks he was given:

Will Smith's son Jaden Smith in Karate Kid with Jackie Chan

Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith in Karate Kid with Jackie Chan

I remember once watching Jackie Chan on B-roll telling Chris Tucker off for not switching his cell phone off during filming, and on another clip expressing disapproval at a young pretty co-star for having the giggles and wasting film. Each time he used the word “unprofessional”. And so when he said the quote below about Jaden Smith having described how he had his trusted staff observe the then-tween on-set during filming of Pursuit of Happyness for 3 months before taking his dad Will Smith up on doing Karate Kid with him:

“He can take the pain. He can take whatever we teach him. Even when he’s crying, he still does it… I think he’s the luckiest boy in the world, but he deserves it…”

Respect  this little kid ok. (And I have Rockstar to thank for coming across this)

Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never. Never mind what I think of JB and his hair, this one features Jaden Smith’s rap:

“…I been tryin’a chill, they been tryin’a sour the thrill; No pun intended I was raised by the Power of Will; So now I got the world at my hand, I was born of two stars so the moon’s my land…”

Love the rap. Thought it was especially significant how he owned it, acknowledged his privileged upbringing without being intimidated by his parents’ stardom, and then just worked his little butt off anyway. How would you like it if your dad called Jackie Chan for you? Thrilled? Yeah, for like, 5 minutes, before you maybe start to hyperventilate about everyone’s expectations and oh yeah, don’t forget you are 11 years old. (Jaden Smith btw is Will Smith’s second son, his eldest is an accomplished DJ with his own acronym, AcE, who was once offered a sports scholarship to college (that he turned down)).

I had the privilege of working/ being acquainted with a few people who had mega-successful parents and they sometimes hated for people to mention their familial connections (because they were super-sensitive about anyone thinking they didn’t get where they were on their own steam), or feel extremely intimidated or pressured professionally to keep up – regardless of anything their own parents said or did. 

While Malcolm Gladwell acknowledges the secret advantage of disability, I also think there is a secret disadvantage to privilege. (Think how difficult it is to “just have fun” on the soccer field if you grow up David Beckham’s son.)  

Oh…kay. Lemme see if I can possibly find my way back to the original point, which was…. erm….  Superheroes and Superpowers. Rockstar’s original question about powers.

Oh, look. Another alien with powers.

Oh, look. Another Alien with Powers. pic from

Urban legend has it the late great Leonard Nimoy was so convincing as Dr Spock in Star Trek that he wanted to quit, after receiving fan mail from a little boy facing critical illness who so believed in Dr Spock’s powers that he wrote to Mr Nimoy beseeching to be healed.

Yet while the power to heal was not at those fingertips so famously poised in Vulcan greeting, Mr Nimoy is remembered as a gifted artist, author, and person, in some pretty memorable quotes. My favourites:

“You proceed from a false assumption: I have no ego to bruise.”

“Whatever I have given, I have gained…… The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have.”

Have a good week ahead, dears. pic from Wikipedia

Have a good week ahead, dears. pic from Wikipedia

ps: I know, I know. Pic of the kids before I get complaints 😉

Miss-Skit is titled Miss Does A Wally:

Where ISS... the MiSS...

Where ISS… the MiSS…

(Red Herring alert)

(Red Herring alert. Major.)

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Of Books And Covers

This is a picture of The Rockstars tripping off to camp one morning.


The Miss is in an asymmetrical hem-water colour print Betsey Johnson dress embellished with studs scored online heavily marked down, for HKD 100-something (seriously). To commemorate the occasion, she eschewed her usual purple Nikes in favour of Rockstar’s shearling Uggs which she has laid claim to, having scored the boots after rummaging through our shoe cabinet one morning.

We don’t ever remember a younger Rockstar wearing those, we bought them from some giant warehouse as a standby one snowy vacation, in case his sneakers weren’t warm enough when he wasn’t in ski boots (he spent most of his ski camp days in ski boots). The Miss considers them a favour well earned, after excavating the deepest bowels of our cabinet, pulling those on and declaring them a perfect fit. Free Favourite Boots. She loves taking over Rockstar’s hand-me-downs and making them her own.

Rockstar is eagerly going for a coding course originally for 11-15 year olds (but in an area he’s familiar with hence the coding school said it would be ok; otherwise we would definitely not try this) – in the clothes he slept in, the previous night. He observed it was “great” his pyjamas were wearable to camp the next day. (Obviously this was a matter of opinion but Pick Your Battles, Aileen.)

Which just about sums up what these two are like.

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