May 2007

You don't have to be a virtuoso to contribute with the violin

May 15, 2007 12:14

This morning, two days after a less-than-perfect performance at my teacher's studio recital, I was still feeling a bit bummed (Clare's very kind review notwithstanding). It's always disappointing when you work hard at something for weeks, only to blow it in front of a bunch of people. But now, I'm feeling good again.

Today I went to my daughter's German-American preschool to talk about and play my violin as part of a month-long period in which parents were invited to come in and tell the kids about their job or a hobby. (My job, as a software engineer for a company doing inverse lithography technology, is difficult enough to explain in English to adults, let alone to preschoolers in German!) I compared my violin to the guitar that their teacher plays, explaining how it has only four strings to the guitar's six, and how one can pluck the strings with the fingers but one usually uses a bow. They were fascinated by the fact that the bow hairs come from a horse's tail, and giggled with delight when I showed them how I could make the violin squeak like a mouse.

I wanted another shot at performing "The Bee", and coincidentally they've been doing a unit on insects, so I asked them to listen carefully and hear the bee buzzing and flying between the flowers. Even though my performance wasn't much better than Sunday's, the kids loved it and the teacher asked me to play it a second time so they could dance around to the music while buzzing like bees. Afterwards I accompanied them in endless verses of a German song I was unfamiliar with but which had the same tune as "Lightly Row". There's nothing like hearing a bunch of enthusiastic three- to five-year olds to rekindle one's love for sharing music, however imperfect.

Afterwards I came in to work, and I had barely sat down when a coworker came to me in a panic, asking for a "big, big favor". Her nine-year-old daughter had dropped her violin last night, and now the sound was completely off and she couldn't practice and she had a recital coming up in just a few days and she didn't know what to do! I took out the little instrument and looked at it; there was no damage, it was just out of tune. I tuned it and handed it'd think I'd just performed lifesaving brain surgery for the amount of gratitude she showed me.

So while I won't be bringing joy with my violin playing to any distinguished audiences anytime soon, today I made a bunch of preschoolers happy and saved an anxious mother's sanity. I guess that's not bad for a morning's work.

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To hear an honest opinion, ask a kid

May 13, 2007 00:13

I'm playing at a violin recital tomorrow night (well, actually,'s after midnight) for the first time in 16 years. One of my pieces is "The Bee" by Fran├žois Schubert. Last night my four-year-old daughter wanted to listen to me practice, and coincidentally she's really into bees right now, so I asked her to listen and tell me if it sounded like a buzzing bee.

Two thirds of the way through the piece I was feeling pretty good about it, when she piped up, "Mommy, it doesn't sound like a buzzing bee, it just sounds like a goofy song!"

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