Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Musical Interlude

We seem to have entered a musical period around here. It started fairly innocently, when Matt and I decided, on a lark, to bid on a set of two introductory violin lessons during the nursery school's online fund-raising auction.

I played violin and viola for a number of years, as I alluded to once before. I enjoyed playing, and although I wasn't particularly stellar at it, I was decent enough to be part of a youth orchestra and a string quartet - which I especially loved, much in the way that I later preferred singing in a choir to performing solo. (Everyone needs a viola player and an alto!) In fact, now that I've been focused on such things in recent weeks, I have been surprised to realize how much music was a part of my life growing up, in a way it surely is not anymore. I eventually left string instruments behind in favor of choirs and theater productions, which were the highlights of my extra-curricular life for many years.

Perhaps if I'd started learning the violin at a younger age I would have been better at it and stuck with it longer. Probably not. But, I have talked a lot to Baxter over the years about starting an instrument. He's always been interested, but I haven't felt he could sit still long enough until pretty recently. When I saw this auction item, I thought it might be a good way to give it a try. The instructor is in the neighborhood and sounds great. He teaches the Suzuki method, which is how I learned and what I would prefer for my kids.

Now that we are the lucky winners of those Suzuki violin classes I am starting to realize what we're getting into. This isn't really just two "try it out" lessons - there are the weekly individual lessons, yes, but also every-other-week group lessons. There's the measurement and ordering of the correct rental violin, and perhaps the ordering of a rental for me as well, since it's ideal for a student to have an adult to imitate (do I still have any skills left to imitate?!). I have discovered that Shar Music, the company whose catalog I pored over in the '80s, picking out new strings and a comfortable shoulder rest, now has a website from which I can order my son's copy of Suzuki violin book 1 and the accompanying CD. It's all rushing back to me.

When I mentioned to the instructor that I sort of wanted to make sure that Baxter liked it before jumping in, I got a very kind and sensible email response about the fact that the responsibility to start and keep playing an instrument at this age has a lot to do with parental motivation and coaching kids through the hard moments. He explained that he would coach me along the way about how to teach Baxter in small, doable steps while keeping it really fun for him.

So, although this is going to cause some - er - interesting scheduling issues for us in addition to daily practice, we're going to jump in and see what happens. We are committed to working on it through June. (Of course, if it doesn't seem like a good fit after our two "free" (i.e., paid for) sessions I have no qualms about saying "sayonara", but if Baxter's interest wanes come mid-March we'll see it through.)

Oh, and thanks to a positive reference to the Music Together program on the Suzuki instructor's website and my recent fond recollection of what a wonderful program it was when I was writing this post, I signed Lyle up for Saturday morning Music Together classes as well. He's not doing any other classes right now and I wanted him to have something special just for him, especially with his big brother starting all these music classes. This seemed like a great choice and he's loving it (and so am I!).

All of a sudden, it appears that - at least for the next 6 months - my life is going to revolve around music learning all over again. I'm enjoying it immensely.


kristen said...

I think this is great! Music is such a great influence on kids--on all of us, really--soothes the savage beast, as they say. Good for you for making a hard choice. Every activity we commit to complicates our lives, our schedules, our free time, but this seems a worthy effort. Keep us posted!

Emily, as some know me said...

We're doing piano right now--in the face of much whining. But if anything taught me the value of practice, it was piano, which I studied for 12 years. Also, for me, playing music was a necessary emotional outlet, and I'd like for our kids to have that available to them, also.

Didn't know you played the violin. Me, too, from about age 8 until 18--did orchestra and all-city orchestra throughout. I have a closet full of formal gowns to prove it...oh, and the violin, too. We should have gotten together and screeched it out.

Altos unite! I'm often mistaken for a man on the telephone. ;)

Christopher Tassava said...

Good luck playing, Baxter; good luck listening, Mom & Dad! My boss is a huge music buff, and nothing makes him happier than talking about his 10th-grade daughter, who is an excellent violinist. Some of his stories about buying violins give me the heebiejeebies, but it's clear that music has made her into a wonderful young woman. I hope Baxter enjoys the lessons and the playing. Post some MP3s sometime, eh?

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

I have always been jealous that my sister learned how to play piano and I didn't. I am sure I said I didn't want to and being the 3rd kid, my parents figured that was easier anyway. But she took dance and piano, which really served her well. Granted she is musically talented, while I am not. But still. Even with the scheduling issues and possible resistance, I think this will be a great activity for your family.