Jack of All Trades

“I started playing piano when I was four years old,” Easton resident, Dina Massey sat hand in hand across the granite table top occasionally sipping coffee out of her favorite blue flowered mug. Her brown hair pulled back into what was supposed to be a ponytail, however, her hair and little fly-aways were too short to maintain it. The beige and baby blue kitchen area was very warming. Frames lined the walls, flaunting her beautiful children. A cork-board leaning against the window of her work desk displayed not only her children’s artwork and report cards, but also any sports accomplishments from the Courier.

She adjusted her thick maroon sweater and widened her eyes in my direction. Her eyebrows lifted nearly to her hairline. Then came the side smirk; simply trying to tell me to get a move on. She had places to go, people to see, work to do, a house to clean and, of course, children to chauffeur around to all of their sports and activities.

Dina Massey is a mother of three. Her son, Benjamin Massey, plays baseball, basketball and flag football at an average level. Her two daughters, on the other hand, Olivia and Madeline, are competitive tennis players. Dina had similar experiences to her daughters at a young age.

Did she is still play the piano today? She let out a heavy sigh and answered, “I don’t.” She motioned her hands around the kitchen and open living room area in which not a single music instrument was present. “I think that I burned out a bit from the piano. I played from a very young age and got to be at a very high-level by the time I was about 9 or 10.” She flipped her hair. “I played lots of competitions all throughout the country and I think that by the time I finished my senior year of high school it had kind of gotten to a point where it was a love-hate relationship.” That was it. Her relationship with the piano came to an end. “Now I just don’t sit down to play anymore.” She maintained a straight face, her voice a monotone.

“I think that I enjoyed it quite a bit at the beginning and the beginning parts of the competition years, but as I got older and the competitions got more intense, and my parents had invested so much time and money, I felt like it was my duty to continue on that path even though I wasn’t really getting the same type of enjoyment or satisfaction out of it anymore.” Dina was not just any great piano player. At age 17, Dina won a national piano competition winning not only prize money and recognition, but also the chance to perform at Carnegie Hall. Her cheeks began to blush. Even after an accomplishment that huge, “ I started to resent the amount of time that I had put into it.”

Dina described the way in which her work ethic grew due to her intense and dedicated piano play. “I probably would say that at the age of 9 or 10 I was practicing two or three hours a day, playing probably five or six days a week. Then, toward the end I was probably practicing about five hours a day five or six days a week.” If you are trying to do the math in your head, this means that Dina has spent nearly 2,548 hours of her life sitting at the piano.

Considering Dina is no longer taking any part in the piano today, was it really worth it? Her eyebrows lowered and her eyes continued shifting. She placed both hands onto her cheeks and finally answered, “I never had aspirations to be a professional musician or a music teacher, so I’m not sure if it was worth it for me to spend that much time on it in that sense, but I do think that the whole experience molded me into the person that I am today. The work ethic that I had helps me today with lots of other things. It has definitely made me someone who is committed to their tasks and a hard worker. Overall, the journey is a big part of who I still am today.”

Is it better to be a jack of all trade and master of none or to pull all of your energy into one area? What should kids be encouraged to do when it comes to their activities?

Considering two of Dina’s children are committed to only one activity while the other is doing multiple, she said, “One of my very favorite things is to watch my daughters play tennis. There is some sense of happiness and excitement that comes from watching your child excel at something. It does sound like I’m kind of doing the same thing as my parents where I’m encouraging my kids to spend a lot of time on one sport, but I do think that my girls have managed to do a better job at finding a balance with the sport they have committed to than I did with the piano.”

Although Dina is no longer a piano wiz, she does have a wide range of skills that make her the amazing woman she is today. Dina is a businesswoman, a cook, a tennis player, a house cleaner, a tutor and a wife. But most importantly, Dina is a mother. Did she ever regret her choice to abandon her mastery on the piano to become a jack-of-all-trades mom. She shook her head vigorously. “Never.” She closed her big brown eyes and reached for my pale hands. Her three stone wedding ring glistened in the light of the chandelier. “Although being a mom can often be tiring, frustrating and requires a wide field of skills that must be touched upon, my three beautiful children are by far my greatest accomplishment.”