My kids showed musical interest. Musical interest, not concertos by aged three, not cuddled in their rooms strumming strings every spare minute, but interest enough to practice without prompting, planning plays with musical numbers, and perusing YouTube for the latest Taylor Swift hits. They enjoy music.
Three of them began with violin lessons. Why violin? Because I said, what do you want to do–piano or violin? And the eldest said, violin.
Can’t say why she chose that, but I’ll assume it was the same romantic notion of velvety violin pieces performed for adoring family and friends that I had.
Turns out, playing violin well, for most people, takes many, many years, and a passion for the instrument that elevates the sound from the beginning years of violin practice from something like the sound of a plane overhead or of a baby as she first enters the world.
I read a book by Suzuki and felt pretty certain that this musical philosophy was a healthy way to initiate musical studies. Suzuki emphasized playing from an early age, learning music by ear, and playing in groups.
I found an instructor that was so skilled, routinely part of musical performances (even the concertmaster at the local symphony), that I insisted all the girls take a couple of years of violin training with him, until one fateful day, I heard each one of them say, “Mom, do I have to do this anymore?”
And these pleas to stop the musical bus weren’t sourcing from a slothful sullenness…they cared to pick up their violin as much as I enjoyed threading the sewing machine for the girls’ summer wardrobe….please, no, let it stop!
I hummed, I hawed, I researched. I heard two compelling arguments:
1. Make them do it. It’s good for them. They will probably develop a love for it. I heard this from still-playing adults, who have come to love their instrument and others who have even gone on to teach their instrument. I have most often heard it from devout parents who insist that doing something the kids don’t really care to do will develop fortitude, consistency, and skill by the mere act of putting in daily focussed efforts.
2. Let them choose their own path. This fits well with my notion of child-led learning. Just cause daddy wants them to play in the NHL, start hockey when he’s two, and push hard, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. If the kid is motivated, little pushing is required. When their natural interests are nourished, their abilities will soar.
No doubt, learning fortitude, consistency, and skills will equip them to do whatever they’re going to do, so I maintain a fence position. And still, I let them stop.
The day we returned the last violin to the music rental store, I sat somberly in the parking lot, near-tears in my eyes. I didn’t want to let go of their musical education.
Mom, are we gonna go in? my oldest daughter asked.
Um, yup, I guess so. Do we have the shoulder rests, the smashed-to-pieces rosin? Is the violin case presentable enough to return?
The man at the front brought out the paperwork while the kids lost themselves in the store. When the deed was done, I didn’t hear the kids.
Wandering around the store, I followed a cacophony to the backroom. My oldest was strumming a ukulele, Madelyn, and Rachel on guitars, and Zach on banjo…It was music to this mom’s ears…but if you weren’t their mom, a cacophony: “a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds: or deafening alarm bells”…a good ole-fashioned Wiedrick hoe-down…