The sound of music

violinWhen I was a second grader somebody let me pick up and scratch out a few notes on a violin. I can’t fathom why I wanted to. Might have been a Laura Ingalls kind of thing. The class was held in a building I remember looking a little like a one-room schoolhouse. It was probably just one of those portables dressed up in my fantasy.

I did go all out for gingham and braids at age seven, though.

I was not a good violin player. I think it had something to do with fatigue brought on by carrying the thing to school. By the time I hit the crosswalk, my arm was about to fall off. The case must have been made of lead or something. I needed a pack mule.

I was also the shortest kid in the whole student body clear through third grade. I was probably dragging it on the ground the whole route, which couldn’t have helped it sound any better.

When Jack decided to play the violin in the 5th grade (they, wisely, start them later now in our district), I procrastinated until the store had run out of rentals. They’d run out of their stash of used instruments for purchase as well. So we ended up buying what I’m pretty sure is a Stradivarius.

This thing should have done the dang dishes, as much as it cost.

Just as we finished paying it off, Colin decided he wanted to pick up the viola.

He’d already started on the piano.

And some sadist gave him a drum set once.

He doesn’t really even need a drum set since he drums his fingers, stamps his feet, and clicks his tongue ALL THE TIME. I swear, if blinking his eyelids made noise, he’d give himself a facial tick hammering out a beat.

I’m okay with the expense of musical instruments, and now music lessons, since Jack wants to continue with the violin even though now he’s at a school that doesn’t offer orchestra. Even with cutting back on things since Mike has embarked on his latest mid-life crisis, music is one of the last things I’ll cut as long as the kids want to play.

There’s the added cost of a little teensy chunk of my sanity as well, pretty much daily. It comes from tracking who has practiced what and for how long. I usually barely even register on the Tiger Mom scale, but if I’m going to pay for lessons and instruments and schlep people to their instructors’ every week, someone’s going to practice.

This occasionally requires my throwing a huge hissy fit a la Joan Crawford and her wire hanger (more often than I care to remember with the belated realization that all the living room windows are open and the neighbors are congregating on the sidewalk).

There’s something incongruous about yelling your kid into practicing Ode to Joy.

But every year they’re given the choice of whether to continue. And every year they do. I figure when someone gives up their Stradivarius, I’ll pick it up myself, maybe, skipping the braids and the gingham this time.

But for now, they’re both sticking with it. So I’m sticking with the occasional Joan Crawford imitation, and the risk of someone contacting the authorities.

No one here is destined for Juilliard, but maybe advanced math concepts or a new language will one day be a little easier for them because of the synapses that are currently forming in their adolescent brains.

In the meantime, it’s nearly the end of the school year. Our summer break includes a break from formal lessons and practice tracking sheets. And for that I’m grateful.

I rather suspect the neighbors are too.

(My kid’s in the front row, third from the left, Captain America shirt).

photo by: New York Public Library


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  1. Oh my goodness. That could be me. My daughter took guitar for 5 years and I was reduced to sitting with her going over notes to make sure she practiced.

    And, as a means of self-protection, I have blocked from my memory the two years that I took violin as a child. My parents used to close the door to my room and play loud music elsewhere in the house so as not to have to hear the cacophony.

    Cassandra\’s latest post is …

    1. I also had a couple years of piano at around the same time as the violin. I had to practice in the unfinished basement. Now that I think about it, the piano was probably down there on purpose!

  2. Thanks for another fun post, Manicmom!
    My son plays electric guitar. I don\’t know if he\’s any good, because he likes metal. It just seems like the sound of an aneurysm to me. :-p
    My daughter plays viola in an orchestra program. When all the strings play together, I get it. But when she practices at home, I can never recognize anything she plays!