“When I sit and play on this piano beside the window, I feel inspired and begin to compose my own music because it makes me feel more creative.”
It is not every day that an eleven-year-old boy says he has learned how to be patient; Justin Toutinji may just be an exception to that.
Toutinji’s family recently moved to Doha. In a country where he knew nobody, Justin found solace in music – and especially in playing the piano.
“I feel that music calms you down. Even if you mess up, you can redo it. The sounds encourage me to keep going, to never stop believing in myself and giving up. Playing the piano teaches me patience, and it allows me to express myself as I am,” Toutinji told Doha News.
After starting piano lessons at Yamaha Music School (YMS), the young student realized that his new home might not be so lonely after all. The school follows the Yamaha Music Education System, which consists of a 10-year structured curriculum aimed at preschool and school-aged children. It helps them express their creativity through performance and composition, all while allowing them to interact in a fun and collaborative environment.
A home made of musical strings
Parents often have an idea of what they’d like for their child to do when they grow up – and being a musician does not usually cut, compared to other occupations. Toutinji’s mother, Lama Zaarour, believes that watching her son play the piano, and the passion he’s developed for it, is also teaching her to adapt to her son’s needs.
“Sometimes, we have this perfect plan and vision set for our kids and their future, however, at the end of the day, what matters is observing what they are into and what they like, which might be completely different than what you have had in mind for them.”
Zaarour enrolled her son in piano classes at YMS after she saw his interest and eagerness. He’d started learning and playing off YouTube and TikTok tutorials whenever he’d come across a piano in public.
“When I saw the interest that Justin had in playing the piano, we started asking around about schools that offer classes. YMS was recommended as one of the best places in the country for teaching the piano and other musical instruments. We proceeded with the enrollment and liked it,” Zaarour told Doha News.
While playing music comes as a source of comfort for some, others grow and develop a love for it after being introduced to it by a role model figure.
To Viviana Honein, that figure was her father. Now eleven years old, Honein enrolled in piano classes at YMS four years ago, when she was just seven years old.
After going to school for four years, Honein feels that she has found a home there. “I always brag about how I go to YMS and how nice it is. I would surely recommend it to others.”
The students at YMS enjoy ample freedom when it comes to their musical expressions and preferable ways of practicing. The school understands that in some cases children might not have a piano at home for them to practice on, so they allow them to practice in their own time using the school’s instruments.
“Until we are sure of Justin’s will to pursue a more advanced journey in playing piano, YMS lets us come in and practice whenever the classes are available,” said Zaarour.
The curriculum at Yamaha Music School inspires students to develop their general musical skills through five major stages: listening, singing, playing, reading, and creating. This gives students the space to grow and express their true selves.
The school’s approach to artistic freedom and expression is no whimsical decision based on the teacher, but a deliberate policy focused on nurturing the student’s passion for music. Gabriel Alejandro, a Cuban instructor at YMS, started his music journey at the ripe age of 10 years old and explained to Doha News the reason behind his teaching techniques.
“I love to give my students the freedom of expressing music however they want and not how I prefer, which was the opposite of what I had learned as a student myself,” said Alejandro, who delved into the field of musical education to teach his passion the way he would’ve wanted to be taught when he was younger.
“I’ve always wanted to play “Für Elise” perfectly on the piano because my father loved this specific piece of music,” Honein told Doha News.
The 25th Bagatelle in one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s most well-known works is “Für Elise” in a minor for solo piano. It was not released during his lifetime as it was only discovered 40 years after he passed away.
Never too late to learn
While many people start learning young, the famous adage of it which is never being too late rings true for those who were not afforded the opportunity at a young age.
Alejandro recalled a 70-year-old student he had taught two years ago. “I remember when he asked me if it was too late for him to learn, as he had just retired from being a full-time doctor. However, he expressed that he wanted to be a musician all his life, and only now he had the time for it.”
He attended the school for two months, and he enjoyed learning and chasing the dream of his younger self. Alejandro watched him grow and develop with pleasure.
“I find that you can learn music at any age. It’s the same as learning any new skill. You don’t have to become a professional, but you can simply play your favorite tunes at home or even create your own songs,” Alejandro said.
With centers in over 40 countries, the Yamaha Music School was launched at the Music Square at Fifty One East, Lagoona Mall in October 2013. The full-fledged learning experience engages not only the children in class but also encourages interaction with their parents beyond it.