Fri, May 24, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Rocks for lessons: Father helps son achieve dream

By Tang Shih-ming and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Lai Jung-yu, left, has been using ornamental rocks, similar to the one pictured here in Changhua County on Tuesday, to pay for the piano lessons of his son, Lai Hsu-tung.

Photo: Tang Shih-ming, Taipei Times

A father in Changhua County has settled on an unusual and special way of paying for his son’s piano lessons for the past three years: Instead of cash, he gives the piano teacher ornamental rocks.

Lai Jung-yu (賴榮裕) takes pride in his son, Lai Hsu-tung (賴續東), a student at Ciaotou Elementary School in Shetou Township (社頭) who has won top honors in regional and national piano competitions.

“I never thought my son would become a musical talent who wins [piano] championships each year,” the father said.

Lai said his son had shown promise as a musician when he was in third grade.

“So I tried to find a good teacher to cultivate my son’s talent. People told me about a famous piano teacher, Lee Ping-tse (李秉澤), in Greater Taichung, but his fee was quite high,” Lai Jung-yu said.

“I was thinking about how I would be able to come up with the money to pay for piano lessons when I heard by accident that the teacher [Lee] likes to collect ornamental rocks,” he said.

“I have been collecting ornamental rocks at the Jhuoshui River (濁水溪), so I asked the teacher if he was willing to trade rocks for piano lessons. I was surprised when he agreed,” he said.

Before acquiescing, Lee went out to check Lai Jung-yu’s rock collection, which included a “black gall bladder rock” (黑膽石, a type of hematite shale rock found on river beds), septarian nodules (龜甲石, rocks resembling turtle shells) and rocks with images resembling numbers or artworks.

The two then struck up an agreement to exchange one ornamental rock for one year of piano lessons.

Within half a year, Lai Hsu-tung had won first place in the “Grade 3 Student” category in a national piano competition held in Greater Taichung.

He followed that up with another first place finish last year in the same competition, this time in the “Grade 4 Student” category.

In the Capital Cup Music Competition held in Greater Taichung on May 11, he captured first place in the Children’s A Group category.

“For the past three years, I had taken rocks from my collection in exchange for piano lessons. When my son had good results, I also gave his teacher an additional ornamental rock as present,” the father said.

With his son heading to sixth grade next school year, Lai Jung-yu said he had already selected a piece for his piano teacher — a rock with the image of a lobster.

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