Printer-friendly version weekend vote: Did either of your parents ever study an instrument?

Laurie Niles

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Published: November 13, 2015 at 10:06 PM [UTC]

I know an awful lot of violinists whose parents also are musicians, or at least who studied an instrument.

But is that the norm?

It would appear, from statistics gathered from the applicants of the upcoming Menuhin Competition, that it is not. Among their 307 applicants, 82 percent of the entrants’ parents do not play the violin and more than 45 percent of the parents of applicants never played any musical instrument.

parents and kid

Of course, one cannot legitimately extrapolate that to the rest of the population. Nor is our poll going to be any more scientific! But I'm curious about those of us in this community. As for myself, neither parent is a musician, but at least one of them (both?) did take piano lessons for long enough to be able to play a bit. I think that it doesn't matter if the parent is a musician, an avid amateur or just an appreciator of music who never plays, studying an instrument does make a difference in whether or not the family is predisposed to spend time and money on music lessons. I will answer "yes."

How about you? Did either of your parents ever study an instrument? Specifically, did either parent play the violin? And if not, what got you interested in the violin? Please answer the poll and add your comments below.

Posted on November 13, 2015 at 10:36 PM
Both parents played the piano, and my father played the violin.
Posted on November 13, 2015 at 11:01 PM
My dad was an opera singer, but neither studied an instrument.
From Nancy Wilson
Posted on November 13, 2015 at 11:05 PM
My parents did not play any instruments but a pretty mean stereo hi-fi when those first came along in the early '60s, and belonged to the Columbia Record club, so I was fortunate to have an exposure to that and the golden age of AM Top 40 radio.

Before that when I was just a babe we had an RCA turntable that plugged into the television and played through the speakers and my first exposure to any music was a number of Strauss waltzes we had on 45 rpm records.

I have always loved strings ever since.

Posted on November 14, 2015 at 12:16 AM
My father was a fine amateur concert pianist, my mother taught both piano and violin. I'm not quite sure how to vote!
From Jim Hastings
Posted on November 14, 2015 at 12:34 AM
Both parents had learned piano as kids. Not sure how far Dad got with it. Mom was a piano whiz and former child prodigy of the piano. Neither parent played violin.

I remember hearing some vintage recordings of famous violinists at home -- e.g., Arthur Grumiaux, David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern -- and being fascinated by the sound. Then, when some professional musicians came to my school to play, the string section really grabbed my attention. I was hooked. That's what pushed me to start violin lessons.

BTW, a classmate who was already taking cello lessons told me violin is harder than cello. But that didn't deter the little swashbuckler in me.

Posted on November 14, 2015 at 2:13 AM
My mom took up violin because I played it.
From marjory lange
Posted on November 14, 2015 at 2:19 AM
Neither studied an instrument, and both sang like frogs--totally tone deaf! and yet they were totally supportive of my brother's and my studies.
From Kevin Keating
Posted on November 14, 2015 at 3:35 AM
I've seen pictures of my mother playing piano when she was younger, maybe high school age. But I'd never seen her play myself. Not sure about my father. I don't think so, but I remember him saying once that he wished he could play the trumpet.
Posted on November 14, 2015 at 4:18 AM
My mother was an accomplished pianist and started me on pisno at an early age. It did not suit me but when I was seven I began violin and loved it.
My father played violin and mandolin and was a good baritone singer. He sang in the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.
Posted on November 14, 2015 at 6:47 AM
I'm from a village of 400 people in Germany and our family was that different family. My dad lead the brass choir. All of the rest of my family played a brass instrument except me. My cousin studied music and sings in an Opera choir. Music was important in our family and relatives. My mom had the radio going most of the time. But I always loved the violin. It was always my favorite instrument.
Posted on November 14, 2015 at 10:21 AM
Neither of my parents had the money to take lessons. They worked hard so that I could.
Posted on November 14, 2015 at 11:21 PM
My mother is a vocalist. My father played every instrument he could get his hands on from guitar to piano, organ, percussion, autoharp, etc. My grandparents/great grandparents were all folk musicians.
From John Lewis
Posted on November 15, 2015 at 5:57 AM
My mother played the piano and my father played the violin when he was a child. As a kid I took piano lessons. While I have always enjoyed music, I could never really get into the piano. So why am I playing the violin? Because my daughter was interested in learning, and I decided to learn also. Eventually she decided that she didn't like the violin, but I'm still playing.

From David Beck
Posted on November 15, 2015 at 6:14 AM
I know a lot of awful violinists whose parents are musicians !!

My mother had been taught the piano as a youngster and persuaded my dad to buy her a modest upright instrument. Then she tried teaching me at an early age. I was under 6; but I rebelled - refused to progress, and the idea was abandoned.
Later, age 8, the Local Authority offered to send a peripatetic violin teacher to the tiny village school at which my mother taught. I was persuaded that it would be a "good thing" were I to "set an example" and join the class.
By then I had heard violinists on the radio and liked what I heard.
Even before the first lesson I had puzzled over how it was possible to play so many quick notes one after the other and concluded that maybe some might be tucked into one stroke of the bow !
My Granny sent us a small violin. The teacher's approach suited me and I was hooked.
The calibre of that teacher probably played a big part. He was S. Montagu Cleeve, an ex-miltary man embarking on a new career.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 15, 2015 at 6:38 AM
"My parents sang like frogs" -- well mine do, too, but I love the song of frogs! ;)

I love that some people took up the fiddle because their kids did.

It's definitely helpful to have parents who played recordings!

By the way, we are having trouble with posting comments at the moment, sometimes it's hard to get one to go through. The workaround, for now, is to just post one word, then after it posts, go in and add the rest of your comment. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Posted on November 15, 2015 at 7:08 AM
My mom loved music and she tried to play the piano and the clarinet but without much success. However she passed her love of music onto me and I have been able to learn the violin and piano as an adult and now the clarinet at age 70. I am grateful for all the classical music recordings and concerts my mom exposed me to as a child.
From Paul Deck
Posted on November 15, 2015 at 4:19 PM
The piano runs in my family. I'm told that my paternal grandfather would customarily play the Chopin Polonaise Op. 26 No. 1 for all his guests, and I once heard my maternal grandmother play the first movement of Beethoven Sonata Op. 106 No. 29 ("Hammerklavier"). My dad studied the piano some as a boy, and he accompanied all of my childhood violin performances. He has a very keen innate musicality. Now I accompany all of my daughter's violin performances, and in fact, in a week's time my daughter's teacher is having a studio recital, and I will be accompanying all of the children (probably ca. 20 kids) on everything from Bach A Minor concerto movements to Rachmaninoff's Vocalise. (Here let me acknowledge Carol Leybourn for her effort-saving "Frustrated Accompanist" reductions). The only kids I am not accompanying are those playing unaccompanied works or those who have older siblings who play the piano well enough to provide accompaniment (always great to see that -- sometimes I turn pages for them).
From Ole Borneman Bull
Posted on November 16, 2015 at 3:48 PM
My parents didn't study music. My Mom listened to Mischa Elman and Fritz Kreisler records on a wind-up Victrola out in the barn when she was a child, and my father took violin lessons for a short time, but he had mastoiditis and my Grandfather let him quit. Deafness seems to be our family's burden.

No, it was actually my Grandfather Hans who picked me out as a youngster. I used to ride his foot as it tapped out the measures. His favorites were violin and trumpet, but he played virtually every instrument including piano. He was a bandmaster, as were his brothers. His sisters played instruments as well. That was my Dad's side.

On my Mom's side, her Grandfather was what they called a 'spelman' in Norway, or 'The local fiddler'. Mads Nilsen his name was, and he was the fiddler of a small place in the parish of Austevoll called Blaenes. It was his desire to go to Bergen to see the great Ole Bull, hence my nickname. Whether his desire was satified, or not, I do not know, but he did relate to my Mom, when she was a child, a story of when, as he was coming back from Bergen, he was accosted by a troop of trolls on a bridge. They roughed him up and robbed him, but when he woke, he found that the only thing missing was his quid of chewing tobacco!! They cared not for his money, his fiddle, or anything else.

Posted on November 16, 2015 at 4:19 PM
Maternal GrandFather. Violin.
Maternal GrandMother. Zither.
Uncle. Guitar.
Mother. No instruments.
Father. Accordion.
Son. Trumpet (and now member of Tanglewood chorus).
Daughter. Fluent on keyboard and flute.

Family originated in Hungary.

(I always wonder what became of Pop's violin ?)

From Terez Mertes
Posted on November 16, 2015 at 5:21 PM
I'm oddly comforted that so many others had parents who didn't play a musical instrument. I was thinking I would be part of an extreme minority there. As others have commented, however, the good ole record player had a big impact on our lives. Broadway musicals and, probably more telling for me, my dad's love of classical music albums in the evenings.
Posted on November 16, 2015 at 6:01 PM
This is interesting. I voted for the second option, BUT: my dad from an early age was always told to pretend when there was any singing going on in school. In my mom's cultural and financial environment learning an instrument was not in the cards, but she had an pleasant singing voice and sang a lot to me and my brothers when we were little. And because of her lack of musical opportunity, she made sure music was part of our upbringing. Now I( got to vote for the second option because my mom started taking piano lessons around age 70 because it was an old dream of hers. Because of physical limitations it never went anywhere really, but I am still in awe of her for having the guts to start! I'm not sure it had anything to do with my taking up the violin at age 49, but who knows?

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