Today was our annual Mother's Day Spring Concert for the non-profit arts school where I teach. As with every thing that happens only once a year, it has become, with repetition, an opportunity to look back, measuring and reflecting.
Here where I live, there is no history of string playing. When my now 21-yr old daughter was young, I had to drive across the Canadian border for her to have violin lessons. Our small and economically depressed area had no teachers, and in fact, children playing strings was so unheard of that people would often ask why we would 'cross the river' (our expression for crossing the border) every week 'just' for violin lessons.
This has changed. About 6 years ago I formed a youth orchestra, the first ever here. It was small but very excellent. Somehow, this group has continued, even with the loss of our older, most advanced students to graduation. Then, a very advanced student of mine went on to get some Suzuki training after graduating, and began teaching here with me. The result is that today, we presented a new intermediate level youth orchestra of about 13, a New Horizons adult group of about 10 and my advanced group, numbering about 15.
I know that this terse, facts-only reporting is not my usual writing style, but I find it fits the evaluation I found myself making today, on the 'state of strings in my area'. There are details, and history, but the point is this: There is a new life and vitality here, and a sense that more and greater things are ahead...the birth pangs are almost over. Looking back at the Mother's Day Concerts from the last 6 years, I see a consistent string of excellent young players (some of whom have gone into performance programs) who fed the program while in its infancy. That era has almost passed....I have only 1 original member left in my group and he will be a senior next year. Still though, somehow, we are still here...and for the first time EVER, there is a group coming up behind us.
Mother's Day is a day devoted to communicating that which we take for granted most times. I find it very fitting that I get to do these concerts every year on Mother's Day, as I always have a 'good' Mother's Day. The concerts give me a chance to step back and see what has been built, and what continues to grow, comparing it to the past. I have kids who I know are richer by their participation with us, I have alumni students who are eager to return, and I have grateful parents who don't really realize that this opportunity did not exist 10 years ago. I go home after the concert every year feeling appreciated and as though my life and my work is making a real difference.
For those of you who live in places where there have always been string programs, where they are taught in schools, to students by the hundreds, this likely seems normal. But for me, and now for US, it's huge. It feels like the sort of thing that people write movies about....our own personal Mr. Holland's Opus sort of opportunity. Something beautiful rising up from nothing....
I feel grateful. If I knew how to post pictures here I would, just to share the joy.
More entries: March 2012
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