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Violinists have it lucky.

February 27, 2008 at 12:06 AM

There is so much in life to inspire us. Over the years I have learnt to deeply love handicapped students because of their special qualities of open heartedness and their determination to succeed and be accepted. Three years ago one of my schools was joined by an almost quadriplegic girl with severe learning difficulties and chronic obesity. She rarely uttered a sound and her only skill in life was to propel herself a few meters across the floor using some weird combination of back , neck and stomach muscles. She joined the school on her birthday so we decided to have a party for her. I took a violin along and stuck it in her lap. I remember her bemusement- `Why are you asking me to do anything at all?`- and the headmaster looking at me like `what the heck are you doing` and then the sheer pleasure that kid got from banging out open string with the little movement she had in her right hand while I played nursery rhymes for her. That’s when I knew anyone could play the violin. Three years on with the help of specialized walking frames her body is almost upright and she can push herself along with her legs. She can waves her arms a bit and has appeared in public in small English plays I prepare for handicapped classes in my area. She has found her voice. It was a great team that gave her a life and it has been so wonderful to be on the periphery of that growth.
Learning things about the violin inspires me too. An interesting little quirk I found re son file. This is generally thought to be pulling the bow along the string for a time of more than ten seconds or so near the bridge. But there is/was a tradition of practicing this bow stroke really slowly with the bow 1 cm above the strings. If I do this first for about 2 minutes per stroke then when the bow is placed on the string it is actually-much- easier to draw a sound from the instrument with a one and half minute bow stroke. I was surprised how different that was from going in cold with on the string bowing.

From Joe Fischer
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 1:52 AM

commendable blog
well done
nice work with the lesser advantaged
there is still hope for you [just kidding]
all best to ye.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 2:08 AM
thanks Joe
From Jasmine Reese
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 3:10 AM
Like I said in the discussion forum, how inspirational! Actually more and more so, I have gained a passion for working with people with disabilities, disorders, and diseases. I worked with people in hospitals and hospices before, but without the incorporation of music. I really want to do that! Over the summer, I will be interning under music therapists. Should be fun! And thank you, Buri, for inspiring this young girl, as I am sure you have. We need more patient and self-less teachers like you in the world.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 6:41 AM
Why everyone loves you so much? Very few people have such a big heart also have a big mind and being crazily funny all at once. Thank you so much for being you and sharing a chunk of you with us!

Speaking of working with disabled, I had a boyfriend some years ago who frequently blacked out (in classroom, streets or at home) due to insulin reaction, as he was a very brittle type one diabetic. Doctor predicted at that time he had only 10 more years to live, but he was giving talks to various interest groups and to the media, traveled and published, on top of teaching full time in an understaffed college, and you couldn’t tell him apart from any other busy profs judging by performance. Although not disabled, he was living on an edge of life and death. People often said to me that it was nice of me to love him and look after him, but the truth was that to share a big chunk of my life with someone like him, or rather, to be next to the accidents and the likelihood of sudden death of someone so youthful and so alive brought me the kind of understanding and perspectives I wouldn’t otherwise have had about life and death. That was the time I realised how silly self-pity is, and how completely wrong-headed to focus on ones insufficiencies!

I think someday we should have law against self-limiting activities much like law against cruelty to children or animals:-)

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 6:44 AM
and I'll try the offing son file tomorrow!
From Anne Horvath
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 4:17 PM
Lovely story!
From Valerie Coon
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 9:14 PM
The son file idea sounds really cool.

I also have worked with quadreplegics and found it to be one of the best things for my teaching ever -- after that, I believed anyone could do nearly anything if given enough time. The video on here some times ago of the violinist who manages to play by moving the violin because he has a missing right arm was amazing. Brought tears to my eyes.

These sort of reminders keep a sense of joy and expectancy in our lives. I never ride on motorcycles for any reason for any length of time -- too high of a risk, but if I were to become "disabled" in some way, I would hope that the inspiration that that job (and subsequently, my friend) had on me would enable me to keep my hope and will strong to live the best life I can dream of.

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