The dilemma may strike some as unusual: Move to a bigger house, or forgo the fourth piano? For the Taggart family, the choice was easy.
In May, the Blaine family of six moved from their split-level abode to a home with enough space for their growing ranks of pianos and children.
“We told our friends that the move was for the pianos,” said Teresa Taggart. “It’s an ongoing joke.”
Emma, 14, and Jacob, 10, practice at least three hours a day after school. They take lessons from a highly regarded instructor, have performed in international festivals and recently appeared on NPR’s national radio program, “From the Top,” where they played a duet.
In this piano-loving household, even 3-year-old Cecilia — named after the patron saint of musicians — is taking lessons.
And the 3-month-old baby, Sophie?
It’s only a matter of time, says their mother, Teresa Taggart. “I think it’s in the cards for her, too,” she said.
While parents Teresa and Jared Taggart each played piano growing up, they said that it took them by surprise when their children showed an early aptitude and passion for the instrument.
Both Emma and Jacob started lessons at age 4. By age 5, the pair were learning under Reid Smith, who holds a master’s degree in piano performance from the Julliard School in Manhattan.
“That’s when things got intense,” Teresa Taggart said. “He knows what the kids are capable of and took it to a different level.”
Smith said about 10 of his 90 piano students share the Taggarts’ dedication and drive. He tailors instruction for each student.
“Emma is very dutiful and malleable,” said Smith, who has taught piano in the Twin Cities for 30 years. “Jacob needs more elbow room. He comes up with his own style and his own way.”
In Jacob’s words, he prefers the “loud and bangy stuff,” while Emma favors more lyrical composers, like Chopin.
“We have the exact opposite personalities,” Jacob added.
The Taggarts make sacrifices, big and small, to make this life possible. When she was 7, Emma gave up gymnastics so she could spend more time on piano.
“I have to turn down a lot of invites,” said Emma, who attends high school at St. Agnes in St. Paul. “My friends are pretty used to it by now.”
Not that the kids entirely forsake other interests. Emma runs track and made a point to go to the homecoming football game and dance. Jacob is in a chess club and plays baseball and football.
“We try to have some semblance of normalcy and a balanced life,” Teresa Taggart said.
The family also watches its budget. Teresa Taggart, who works for a nonprofit from home, clips coupons and avoids splurging on major purchases like a new car.
The family doesn’t own a TV and limits dining out to special occasions. Emma and Jacob set aside money they make from performances and from lessons Emma teaches into what they call their “piano fund.” The money helps pay for summer trips abroad to international festivals.
Jared Taggart, a technology manager in financial services, counts his foosball table among the sacrifices made over the years to accommodate the children’s devotion to music. The family now has two baby grand pianos, one upright and a full-size digital model for upstairs.
On any given afternoon, Emma plays in the front room, hands fluttering across the piano keys. The tune carries through kitchen and tumbles into the living room, where Jacob raises equally commanding sounds.
They practice until dinner at 6:45 p.m. Then, they say the family rosary. Emma, who wants to study music in college, heads back to the piano before bed.
While they play, baby Sophie sleeps her dad’s chest. Jared Taggart shrugs: “She’s used to the sound by now.”