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How Not To Chew Your Ears As A Music Parent

 

Listening to music can be sometimes extremely frustrating – almost painful. Especially if that music is produced by a budding musician right in your house, a.k.a. your child. Here is the story.

Last week I had experienced one of the most excruciating music lessons in memory. The student was my eight years old daughter, who has been playing violin for almost five years now.

The responsibility to go with her to the violin class is most of the time on me in our family, because I am the “musical one”. Usually I like it as it gives me an opportunity to observe the hard-working teacher shaping musical abilities of my daughter. Along the way I can learn something new, or get an inspiration for what I am doing here with Musicably.

I want to emphasize, that for most other days I have been also the one responsible to practice with my daughter at home. At the beginning, while she couldn’t read and was taking the Suzuki lessons, this helped her to move and learn quite fast.

After a while I realized though, that she was stagnating. So we switched to a different teacher and started with a “normal” violin learning method. Based on the results and successes of many professional violinists, we have decided to try the Russian violin school. And that has not been easy at all.

Unfortunately, the previous teacher was just too funny and not rigorous enough to teach my daughter a proper basics like the body posture and the instrument hold. As I am pianist and don’t have enough experience with violins, I caught this growing issue quite late.

So at the suggestion of the new teacher, we had to start almost from the scratch again.

At that time I had been really appreciating the focus and perseverance of my little girl. Although she doesn’t like practicing that much, she never wavered.

After a number of hard months when we had been working on the bow hold, body posture and other seemingly little but important nuances, we have arrived to a point when instead of tiring exercises, a beautiful music became again part of our daily routine.

This pleasant time came literally to a screeching halt a few weeks ago, when my daughter was accepted to a local youth chamber orchestra. The workload more than doubled, but that has not been the main issue.

Suddenly we have been able to see and hear – and compare! Compare what other kids were able to play. What an ‘awakening’ – at least for me.

Some children, similar age as my daughter, play on substantially higher level. At the same time they claim to practice for less than two years.

I got frustrated and brought this issue to the daughter’s violin teacher. I don’t know what went through her mind in that moment. But what followed was that screeching torture I hardly survived and have been left with my mind in a stage similar to the PTSD.

What happened?

Well, what’s happened is that my princess is expected to play the second violin in a smaller part of one of the most notorious classical music pieces.

And it looks that I was not the only one who freaked out.

The violin teacher immediately changed her teaching plan and started working on the new orchestra piece my daughter brought.

And that was painful. I had endured one of the toughest music classes in my life. The screeching was unbearable. Mistakes started to pile up on each other like an overflowing garbage can after a popular music festival. The teacher worked hard. She tried to help, so that my daughter “could feel comfortable and her self-esteem doesn’t suffer”.

I almost chew my ears …

And my little girl, as was appropriate for her age – after a while simply switched off. Disconnected.

She didn’t revolt. It was her mind which realized much faster than the two adults in the room, that such an extreme effort and pressure was futile.

But I?

I was frustrated. I was disappointed and angry. And I was traumatized.

For a week I couldn’t even hear the sound of her violin. I prescribed myself a special walking therapy with classical music, to bury the negative experience under layers of pleasing sounds and kilometers of walked distance.

Simply – I had been hysterical…

Until this morning. This morning my daughter asked me gently, whether I would go with her to the orchestra rehearsal. Because she thinks she will do better than the last time.

Wow!

After all that torture she is still calm and willing to continue!

Why?

Because she likes it. She likes the beautiful sound of violin. She likes music.

And in that moment I realized, how strange I had been acting. How mindlessly I had built my expectations which got crushed by, again, mindless judgements and comparisons.

So I went out for my daily jogging. And while running I put into order my thoughts about the violin issue. And decided to write this blogpost to summarize my experience.

Being a music parent is not easy. But many good things in life are not easy either. One possible way how to make this musical journey easier, is not to walk it alone. To get advice and help from others, who have gone through similar challenges. To exchange knowledge and experience.

When searching the endless possibilities of internet for information and contacts, I have found a number of websites and organizations by and for music parents. You can google them yourself, here are just two examples – The National Associations of Music Parents, and The Music Parents’ Guide.

Work, help, play, and enjoy music with your children mindfully. Simple as that.

Although I am a musician, my intention has never been to push my daughter to become one. My hope is for her to learn and enjoy music as much as she wants to. And to gain all the benefits (How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition) that playing music from the early age could bring. That’s all.

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