Saturday, January 26, 2008
Almost as soon as Joseph was born we decided that we wanted him to play the violin. We hope all of our kids are musical but especially for Joseph we wanted to give him an activity that could be special for him, that he could excel at, and that he could start at an early age. We've been researching methods of musical training and talking to various musicians for a couple years and we settled on the Suzuki method of instruction. The Suzuki method works on the premise that very young children can learn how to easily play an instrument the same way they learn language--by listening and imitation.
Unfortunately, lessons and instruments aren't cheap. This is a high priority for our family but after looking into local teachers we decided last fall to wait a year. But for months Joseph has been obsessed with the violin. He turns half his toys into violins. He knows his left hand from his right and has long known which is his bow hand and which holds the violin. He has a tiny violin puzzle piece that he is always asking to play. He can pick out the violin (and many other instruments) by ear from recordings and from the radio. It was a little heartbreaking to have all this enthusiasm and no vehicle for it.
At Christmas we spent a lot of time with Eric's family, many of whom are or were music teachers. They convinced Eric that he could teach Joseph himself. Eric does not know how to play the violin, but he does play several instruments and just has a lot of innate musical sense and ability (far more than I do, despite my music degree). When we got home from our travels we looked into violin rentals and we were surprised at how inexpensive two instrument rentals would be. Eric went out at the beginning of the month--in time for our Epiphany celebration--and got a full-size violin for himself and a 1/16 size for Joseph (even then, it's a bit too big). We already had the books in place.
Joseph was so excited when he opened it. He pulled it out of the case, asked for the bow, and started "playing" immediately. The top picture is that time. Eric let him just play with it for a little while and later (bottom picture) they had their first lesson.
They try to have a short lesson together most evenings after dinner. I'm always putting Margaret to bed (she is not a help to the lessons!) so I typically miss them but I got to see the tail end last night. We are so proud of Joseph. He has learned the proper, very particular way to hold the bow and is working on placing his left hand correctly on the neck of the violin. He loves to work on his good violin posture and he is learning to draw the bow nice and straight across the strings. He's still a long way from "Twinkle, Twinkle" but he takes his playing very seriously and is always ready for a lesson. Eric is really enjoying being the teacher and is studying hard himself so as not to pass on any bad habits. He's finding that playing is a great break from dissertation-writing and job-hunting.