Thursday, October 16, 2008

Music Time

Music became a very large part of our lives, very quickly, over the past few months. Even before we became parents, I had always planned on learning the violin with my children when the time came, but I didn't realize it could be so soon. I had figured that they would take it up in middle school. Then, last August, we talked with other parents who started their children very early in the Suzuki method for violin. The more we read and heard about Suzuki and other methods, the more excited I became. I quickly found a Suzuki teacher in our area and looked into the idea of starting Liesl now. The plan we came up with was for me to learn the violin for a few months before Liesl so that I could be of better help during her practice. But now that I am learning myself and enjoying it so much, I am sure that when Liesl begins formal instruction, I will continue to take private lessons myself (as long as I can keep getting a few interpreting assignments a month--private instruction is an expensive investment.)

Our violin teacher, Miss Sharon, is absolutely terrific. She is a physician who decided she'd rather teach violin than practice medicine, though she does keep her licence up. I can't believe the amount of work she puts into her students behind the scenes, outside of our private sessions. She is a very hands-on teacher, she makes herself available outside of lessons to all of her students via phone and email if you are having a problem during daily practice. She puts a tremendous amount of time in on monthly recital classes and rehearsals. We also have an open invitation to drop by the studio any time we want to observe other students' lessons. (Which means that all the other students have the opportunity to observe MY lessons as well. EEEK!)

In addition to the violin, we started our Music Together classes with Miss Karen in September. (This one's really for the kids, folks--but I honestly think I am enjoying the classes, songs, instruments and activities as much as any kid in the class.) Both Liesl and Ava are "students" in the class, which is based on exposing very young children to more diverse musical experiences than most popular children's music CD's. Heck, even I have learned things I didn't know (or remember) from when I studied music as a child and teenager. The classes are also an investment, but now that I see the benefits they offer (not to mention the fun all three of us are having during class), we will continue to take them for the winter and spring sessions. Thanks to our Music Together experiences, we have started a nice collection of used rythem instruments (including some that we made or discovered ourselves.) I also see a few more instruments on the horizon for birthday and Christmas gifts.

So, add these two big parts of our lives up and we now have a daily practice session we call "Music Time." After breakfast is cleared, us three girls head into the living room (where I barricade Ava in with suitcases and other large items.) I get out my violin and practice, Liesl and Ava get out their musical instruments and give Mommy a headache practice as well.

(Never mind the naked kid...we are also potty-training. We just loooooooooove multi-tasking in our house.)

This next video will show one of our newest and most welcome Music Time companions:

...Thanks to the coffee-can drums--which, as Ava discovered, are much louder if you turn them upside down--I stopped using a free online metronome and bought a simple model that had sweeping lights. The lights help me keep my rhythm much more now that Ava has figured out how to turn the coffee can drums over. I'm thrilled she's making discoveries--but I can barely hear my violin, much less a metronome, over the racket. :-)

We usually play for 15-20 minutes, then pack up the violin and instruments and wrap up the session with a quick visit to YouTube for Liesl and I. Miss Sharon told us that if Liesl were to see a video of a concert violinist each day, she would become a better violinist herself. So we usually watch for a few minutes--rarely finishing a video because she starts to fidget after 3 or 4 minutes--but I have been learning a lot along with her. My favorite violinist is Rachel Barton Pine, and Liesl's very favorite video clip of all time is Rachel's Happy Birthday variations. Rachel is a lovely, fun-loving, talented musician with a very interesting past and story.

In addition to morning Music Time, I try to grab 10-15 minutes of "solo" practice time in the late afternoon or evenings. Sometimes right before dinner, sometimes while Tom is giving the girls a bath. Practicing on my own is a hugely different experience than practicing with two little girls at my feet. Both kinds of sessions are fun, but in different ways. People ask me constantly how I manage to practice so much with two little girls. It's easy: I love to practice. (My neighbors aren't quite as thrilled as I am, but, what the heck. They can close their windows.) If you really want something bad enough, you'll find a way; if you don't, you'll find excuses. The whole purpose of my studying the violin was to expose our kids to it, so I make them part of it. And Liesl "helps" me by rosining the bow, by making sure my bow arm is straight, and by letting me know which version of "Twinkle" she'd like to hear first.

I'll post videos of me practicing when I figure out where the heck our tripod is. I plan to keep a video "diary" so I can see how much I progress over the years. It won't be Stravinsky or Brahms to begin: it'll be several variations of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and it'll be quite squeaky at first. :-) However, according to Miss Sharon, I'm progressing very well, especially for an adult (translation: An old person whose limited brain cells are more focused on potty vocabulary than musical aptitude.). I have my high-school band director to thank for that--Mr. Jones was a tremendous teacher, and his lessons have stuck with me all these years, even as my music skills lay dormant and my piano and clarinet have collected dust.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Apparently Liesl will never be troubled with a nightmare of being naked on stage!