Lessons Learned

The musical road not taken.

When I was about 6 years old, I started playing piano by ear. This likely came about because I heard it played every Sunday in church, and my two older brothers took piano lessons and so were practicing constantly at home. I was picky: I played only hymns (my dad was a minister, after all) and I used only the white keys.

But that’s as far as it went. My parents never arranged piano lessons for me. I never asked why—perhaps it was money, or maybe they thought two piano players in the house were plenty. I obviously had a musical ear so I often think back to what might have been. More than once I’ve wished I could play a Chopin étude or a Beethoven sonata. But true pianists do not live by white keys alone.

And so when I was editing this month’s story about how music lessons can change a child’s life, I felt a twinge of regret. One of our subjects is Raphael Fernandez, who began taking piano lessons at age 5—his parents enrolled him in the hope that the experience would improve his attention span. Today at 16, Raphael is reaching for the stars: He also plays cello in a youth symphony, sings in his high school chorus and composes music.

Nudging one another toward success—that’s an important part of family life. So is quality time together. In this, our family issue, we also look at how children and parents can connect through gardening and ask the experts how to prevent technology—specifically texting—from sparking a big family disconnect. We get the scoop from some local chefs about how they’ve developed good eating habits in their kids, talk to a veteran children’s entertainer, and provide a family “bucket of fun’’ list—10 area destinations where you’ll have a blast, including a lighthouse and a drive-in theater (yes, there’s still one standing).

Elsewhere inside, dining critic Joseph Hayes reviews two newcomers—Soco in Thornton Park and RusTeak in College Park; Answer Man looks at how a treasured, age-old tree that burned three years has gained new life; we provide a sneak preview of our next issue of Orlando Home+Garden magazine; and Greg Dawson explains why the best New Year’s resolution is to avoid making resolutions.

Speaking of resolutions, here’s one we hope you’ll take to heart: Vote for your favorite restaurants in our 2015 Dining Awards poll at www.orlandomagazine.com. This is your chance to support the establishments you think really stand out in our community—and you could win a dinner for two at a top restaurant just for voting. There are dozens of categories, from various ethnic cuisines to Best New Restaurant to Best Wine Bar. Hey, maybe I could get a gig playing hymns using just 52 out of 88 keys at one of…

Never mind.

Categories: Column