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Laurie Niles

Go, Mommy!

November 27, 2005 at 6:58 AM

Motherhood, for all its beautiful moments, is an incredibly humbling experience.

Especially if you want to keep playing the violin.

I know this from personal experience: taking an audition while six months pregnant (I didn't win), pumping milk so Robert could feed the baby when I had a rehearsal or concert, struggling to keep the house presentable for students when the little chaos-makers were running about in diapers, looking desperately for a middle-of-the-day babysitter so that I could drive across town and take a lesson...

My kids are a bit older now, ages five and eight, and it's easier in certain ways than it was. I can practice when they are in school, for example. But I remember.

My adult student Caroline first came to me, wanting to brush up on her own playing as she trains in Suzuki pedagogy. She's been working on getting the stress out of her playing, developing a comfortable and effective technique. She's also learning the same juggling act I am – she has two girls, ages three and five.

“WHEN do you practice?” she asked in exasperation one week. “It's impossible!”

“It's just really hard when they are so young,” I said, as if I know anything. I struggle with it, too.

“Just hang on to a thread of yourself, Caroline,” I said. “Sometimes that's all it can be, just a thread. You have to be with your kids, you want to be with your kids. Enjoy them, and give them what they need. But keep that little bit of yourself, practice when you can. Even if it's just 15 minutes a day, it will help.”

Though she wanted to study the necessary Suzuki repertoire to qualify for the certification work, it was clear that Caroline needed a little something for the soul. So I suggested “Meditation from Thais.”

“Oh really?!” she said, excitedly, “I love that piece!”

She decided, several months ago, that she would play it in my studio's fall recital. I told her to have it completely memorized a full month in advance. She did. She didn't always get to practice when she wanted to, but she found times to do it, and she kept with her goals.

The studio recital was two weeks ago, and I was so proud of every student. Two beginners performed for the first time: Maggie put all her lungs into the Rest Position Song, and Chellie showed us a perfect numbers game. Addison played the May Song with great presence, Caelan remembered every repetitive detail of Gossec Gavotte. Sarah and Caroline both played fiddle tunes as well as Suzuki repertoire, and my adult beginner, Anne, is almost through Book 1, playing Bach Minuet 1. Bill played the first movement of Mozart 5 from memory, with a fantastic cadenza. I played Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and it was so fun that instead of thinking, “Thank GOD that's over!” I thought, “I'd love to do that again!”

But Caroline...she was inspired.

When she arrived at the recital with her kids, husband and in-laws, she joked, “I bet you've never seen me with make-up on!” I hadn't, and she looked great!

When it was her turn, third to last, she stepped out from the pew behind me and walked up to the front of the church. As she bowed, I heard her three-year-old, Katherine, whisper, “Go Mommy! You can do it!”

And she did, from start to finish. She played with beautiful tone, all from memory, and with a lovely musicality that kept her and us all into the music. After her performance, she was beaming.

“Wow, how did THAT happen?” she laughed, as she talked to me after the recital. She knew she had done well, and I can tell her how it happened: she made it happen!

Go Mommy!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 27, 2005 at 7:54 AM
Hi Laurie, thanks for sharing that story with us all. It was enjoyable to read your insights.
From Karin Lin
Posted on November 27, 2005 at 9:21 AM
I love adult students. I loved playing with them in recital when I was a kid, and I love being one. Thanks for the inspiring story.
From Scott 68
Posted on November 27, 2005 at 2:46 PM
never underestimate the power of mommy!
From J Fang
Posted on November 30, 2005 at 12:51 AM
Laurie: Enjoyed your blog entry! There's a nice article in the latest Strings Magazine about motherhood and playing. Johnny

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