I woke up this morning so incredibly excited about the possibility of my daughter having violin lessons, and one of the things that I realized is that what I wrote yesterday doesn’t come anywhere near expressing how I feel or why I was crying in a room full of strangers last night.
When I was a girl, I took violin lessons at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music for many years. It was a huge part of my life, and remains an incredibly rich part of my memories – so much so that not only have I packed my violin and lesson books around to nine different homes in the 16 years since I took my last lesson, but I still have my old rosin container – even though there isn’t any rosin in it. I simply can’t part with something that was such a huge part of my life. Every time I get my violin out, I am flooded with memories of Mrs. Williams and Suzuki music tapes, memories of playing “twinkle twinkle little star” on stage, and sitting in a dimly lit auditorium with my mom – just me and her – listening to symphony concerts. I still remember the first time I ever saw Concerto for Two Violins played on stage, and how desperate I was to get to the end of book four, so that I could learn to play it.
Unfortunately, that passion for playing warred against my penchant for procrastination. Or rather, I should say, my passion for wanting to play didn’t translate into actual playing (and practicing.) I took my scholarship for granted and lost it just as I came to the end of book four. My mom tried to enroll me in lessons elsewhere, but it just wasn’t the same. And so, a huge part of my childhood came to an abrupt and devastating halt and I’ve lived with that regret for years.
Now, I’m not a mom who tries to live vicariously through her children. Rather than put my own children through lessons if they didn’t want them, I’d always planned to go back and take lessons myself, some day. But I have to say that when Bitty began showing an interest in the violin, I was thrilled. The Suzuki method is incredibly structured. Bitty is going to be learning almost exactly the same things I learned. They’ll teach her with the same music. They’ll teach her exactly which parts of the bow to play with and how long to hold each note, and at which places the bow will go up, or down, or slur. They’ll show her how to use vibratto (something I was never good at) and how to slide into 3rd and 4th (and 5th and 6th) position. They’ll teach her all the things I never learned, or all the things I learned but soon forgot. It will be like introducing my daughter to an old and beloved friend and watching her develop a friendship of her own. And, in a way that seems totally selfish and utilitarian, it will be a sort of second chance for me.
Because I’m determined that my daughter will see this through, as long as she wants to. My lack of practice wasn’t because I didn’t want to play, it was because I lacked the self-discipline to follow through each day. And my third daughter is just like me. I have no doubt that if I enrolled my oldest in lessons of any type and told her to practice for an hour every day, she’d lock herself in her room, set a timer, and get it done. But Bitty? She’ll find a hundred different reasons to wait, and a hundred different things to distract her. And it won’t be because she doesn’t want to play. It’s just the way she is.
So I’m going to do for her what my mom couldn’t. I’m going to play with her, and we’re going to learn together. I’m going to do the practicing with my daughter that I didn’t do as a child. I’m going to master the techniques that I didn’t master as a child, and help her to master them, too (or, more likely, it will work the other way around!) I’m going to watch her play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for the first time burst with pride. I’m going to listen to her play Concerto for Two Violins and cry my heart out. And one of these days, I may even play it with her.
I’ve tried to express what is in my heart, and why I’m so incredibly grateful for this opportunity my daughter has been given, but I know I’ve still fallen far short. I’m not sure who is more excited, me or her! :)
I wanted to share my favorite violin piece with you. This is Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins. Maybe it will express all the feelings that I can’t.
And just because it’s awesome, here are two itty bitty ones (ages 6 and 7) playing the song I never got to, in all the years I took lessons:
(And no, I won’t push my daughter to play that by the age of 8. By the age of nine, however…)