Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Saga of the Beginning Violinist

The first part of Emile's nightly violin lesson is the easiest, though least fruitful: asking him to go get his violin to start the lesson. It's easy, because I only have to repeat the request a few dozen times, without any further work on my part. It's fruitless for the same reason – at least until the moment when I hit the sticking point, and he finally goes to get the instrument.

I tune it.

Then comes the struggle to get him to stand straight, hold the violin correctly. He has a tendency to want to melt. Getting his bow arm not to flap out behind him like a chicken wing is a struggle, as well, because it bugs him to have his elbow touched. As a violinist myself, I can sympathize; I hate having my bow arm touched while I'm playing. He's fairly good about correcting his pitch when I point it out, though “up” and “down” and “flat” and “sharp” are still fuzzy terms for him. 

The real trouble comes in getting him to repeat a section, play it differently. He wants to charge on. If he repeats, he wants only to repeat from the beginning, never midway. One of the adults in the Suzuki class was the same way, so I guess it isn't only little kids who are stubborn and resistant about such things. 

Get him to read the music sheet, count the beats, be attentive to sound quality, stand up straight, play staccato when that's what's written, hold a note for five beats, keep his elbows in line …. It's a lot, and I know it. 

The real meltdown comes when I ask him to play a new piece, and he doesn't want to. Then, oh boy, better hope that fiddle doesn't get crushed in the melodramatic flop. “Don't let the violin go bridge down, ever!” “No, the bow isn't a cane.” “The bow can only be an epee if it doesn't touch anything.” “Don't put the bow between your toes!” Reminders of things that seem obvious.

Two old pieces, and one new, every night. It seems unreasonable to him. It can take as much as ten minutes to scrape him back up off the floor. And if I get to play one piece along with him, I'm happy. 

In spite of the drama, he's improving. His sound is good, and he's making real music. 

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