Being Violin Mom, Part 2.

Monday, October 19, 2015

In my last post, I wrote about what Being Violin Mom means.  I described the burdens and the pressures, and I touched on the challenges and the obstacles.  So why do it?

Here's why.  I want to give my child the gift of music.  I want music to touch her soul.  I want it to deepen and enrich how she experiences the world and relates to people.  I hope that she will feel joy and sorrow, exuberance and loss, and everything in between, in music.  I want her to develop the heart and spirit of a musician, and all that goes with that -- compassion and resilience and determination and so much more.  I want music to energize her but also to comfort her, to connect her with others, but also to be a steady companion when she's alone.  I want her to learn musical self-expression for times when words fail.  I want her to find a safe space in music, where she can lose herself and find herself.  I want music to become part of who she is and how she sees herself.  Suzuki says, If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance.  They get a beautiful heart.  That is what I want for my daughter, a beautiful heart.

Of course, I realize that music is not the only way to a beautiful heart.  But I'm also pretty convinced that it's one way.  And I believe that a beautiful heart filled with music is about as good as it gets.  

Is music really a gift I can give, and will Suzuki violin really help my daughter's heart and spirit?  I don't know.  But it's worth a try.  Even if we don't get there, I have no doubt of the collateral benefits of the process itself.  Time management, responsibility, organization, hand-eye coordination, perseverance and commitment, memorization and recitation, concentration, public performance skills, listening skills, discipline, non-verbal communication, goal-setting, confidence-building, the value of hard work, the satisfaction of achievement.  I've seen impressive development in all of these areas already, and my daughter is only nine.  Although it's harder to see in myself, I'd bet even I have developed in some of those areas through our violin journey.

Here are some things I've learned, with a few years of being Violin Mom behind me.

Together we are stronger.  We are in this together.  Maybe not forever, but certainly for now.  We succeed or we fail together.  We learn together, or we don't learn.  We tackle challenges together, we celebrate together, we pick each other up and encourage each other when we feel beat.  It's not always easy or smooth, not at all.  But here's the result -- our relationship and the trust between us is stronger for it.  When love is deep, much can be accomplished, Suzuki says.  I'm counting on it.

Music is bigger than practice.  It is easy to get bogged down the practice particulars.  Review + memorize + polish + skills.  Repetitions.  Every day.  It is harder to keep sight of the bigger picture.  This isn't really about learning Gavotte or vibrato or bowing patterns; it's about music and the human spirit.  It is necessary to be concerned about the importance of educating a really beautiful human spirit, Suzuki says.  He's right.  But not only in violin or music; in life and parenting generally.

Children will amaze and inspire.  Children are capable of so much.  With a loving environment and plenty of encouragement, children learn at a remarkable pace.  I am amazed by what my child can play.  Astonished, truly.  I am inspired by the sound that comes from her hand and her violin.  It's moved me to tears more times than I can count.  Her recitals have taken my breath away.  

Walking into the classroom to find her performing for fellow students, seeing her play for hundreds of people during her school's talent show, knowing that she took her violin for show-and-tell when she was Star of the Week, watching her play at the fire station and park and farmer's market -- all of these things amaze and inspire me.  I'm pretty sure she's inspiring others too.

I talked earlier about wanting to giving my child the gift of music.  What I didn't say but is so very true -- she has given me that very same gift.  She has brought music back into my life, filled a hole, awakened something in me that I needed.  

Enthusiasm is contagious.  When I set aside distractions and immerse myself in the music, when I let my daughter see my enthusiasm and patience for learning and playing music, I see it reflected right back to me.  When I'm excited, she's excited.  Almost always.  Suzuki says, Parents who have smiling faces have children who have smiling faces.  Suzuki also says, An unlimited amount of ability can develop when parent and child are having fun together.  The more enthusiastic and positive I am, the better my daughter learns.

There is no substitute for hard work.  We try hard to make violin fun, but there's no denying that we work hard at it.  Repetition is the key to success, Suzuki tells us.  So we play things again and again. We learn new pieces but still revisit the old ones.  We learn new skills and then apply them to Twinkle.  We sacrifice and we make time, even when it's difficult.  We don't give up, even when it's tempting.  Suzuki tells us, Don't hurry, don't rest.  Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking one step at a time will surely get you there.  So we march on.  And on.  And on and on and on.  The result?  Accomplishment.  Achievement.  Beautiful music.  A feeling of tremendous pride for reaching a goal.

This is why I do it.  This is why it's worth it.  Beautiful music, beautiful heart, beautiful spirit. 

Please understand that I am no expert on the Suzuki method (not at all!), nor am I an expert in teaching children violin.  I'm learning as I go, and I know that I still have lots to learn.  I'm trying hard, doing pretty well some days and struggling mightily others, hoping love and perseverance pulls us through tough spells, hoping that the gift of music is worth every challenging minute.  I share this in hopes of encouraging some other violin parents through the inevitable Suzuki Slumps (which surely are a valuable, though painful part of the process), just as others have encouraged me when I needed it.

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