July 2004Disney World, Universal Studios…. Next week we go to Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio, to see my parents and visit all the ancestral stomping grounds of my family. And we’ll go to Cedar Point, to show Robert that it’s actually the world’s best amusement park! All this visiting hasn’t exactly put the final polish on my Tchaik concerto. Add to that the fact that my Suzuki teacher group is in the middle of a rather painful breakup, and…I’m just not in the mood to talk about my musical life!
So I’ll throw out into cyberspace a piece of my personal life, something I have always meant to share with the world. It’s the prayer that I wrote for my children to say at bedtime. I was quite disgruntled with the one I learned as a young Catholic. It goes like this, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
First of all, I’m doing to DIE in my sleep? Then, I’m actually asking for someone to take my SOUL? I didn’t really understand that as a small child. It just sounded scary. And I think it gave my sister a lifelong fear of death.
So I felt that I could improve upon the old prayer, keeping just the first line, which seemed accurate enough. I wanted it to be meaningful to a child. I wrote the new prayer in 1996, while pregnant with my daughter, Natalie, then added the last few lines in 2002, when I was putting it to music and illustrating it for my son, Brian’s, second birthday. I wrote a tune for it that has a six-note range, in keeping with my vocal range! If you want the copy of the music and illustration, write to me. I’ll make Robert put it up on the Internet if enough people do. But for now, here are the words, the part I care about the most.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I thank You for the things I have:
Of course I found this trick while working with a grown woman, one who already knows how to play the violin but just wants to tighten up some technique.
“Your elbow,” I said. “Some teacher must have told you to bring it to the right, but now it’s so far over, it’s contorting your entire hand.”
She looked with great attention at the offending elbow and nodded in agreement. “You’re right, it’s messing up everything.”
She proceeded to set herself up perfectly, elbow down, everything in order. Then she played. As the music got more involved, around crept the elbow. Within 20 bars it had returned to its familiar position, way over to the right.
I’m guessing this was a habit about 25 years in the making. Not easy to break.
“Hmmm, your elbow is back in its old place, let’s fix it and start again,” I said. Ah yes. Like that. Perfect. Ready, set, play. What’s this? There she goes again, she’s moving to the right, to the right….
That’s when I thought of the highly technical solution: the little beanbag frog that sits atop my computer.
“He’s going to sit right here,” I said, positioning my little friend in the crook of her elbow. She laughed. “Okay,” She kept laughing.
“If he’s looking at you, watch out. He can only peek, just a little.”
The frog worked amazingly well. There was great elbow awareness from then on. In fact, I was so pleased with my new trick, I used it later in the day for someone with the opposite problem. She, of course, was four. The weight of the beanbag alone kept her from her habit of winding around to the left!
The moral of the story is: Suzuki Institutes can and will warp your mind. But a warped mind does think up more creative solutions.
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles went to Austin, Texas to cover the Menuhin Competition 2014, watching some of the world's top young violinists. Read her ongoing coverage.
Laurie Niles is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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