A Non-Musician Parent Asking Questions about their Young Violinist

April 13, 2007 at 08:35 PM · I'm new to this sight. I have two questions...We are parents of a seven year old son who is in Book Four of Suzuki. My questions are- How detrimental is playing baseball for a serious student, and how important is it to locate a children's orchestra for him to play in? His teacher is not happy about baseball, and we've moved away from the orchestra he once played in,and he misses it.

Replies (25)

April 13, 2007 at 08:37 PM · My son is six and plays the piano. He also plays football, basketball and soccer. (Not all at once, of course! But throughout the year) I think it would be quite detrimental for him NOT to play sports! Of course, he is still expected to practice the piano every day!

(and, yes, I'm a violin teacher, too :)

April 13, 2007 at 08:57 PM · Do you know why your teacher is upset about baseball? Potential for injury? I'm just curious.

April 13, 2007 at 09:07 PM · Go for the sports. A famous concert violinist friend used to have extensive wood working machines, saws, lathes, etc. in his basement. All music will make a dull kid, plus the exercise will be good for him.

April 13, 2007 at 09:20 PM · There's nothing like amateur sports or amateur music. One will never find the same joy as a professional in either. Your son might miss his orchestra, but he will also probably miss his baseball team too. Both are wonderful experiences when they are reasonably well run by coaches and teachers. If you (and he) can fit it into his schedule, do both!!

April 13, 2007 at 09:43 PM · Yeah, sports are great to play. Your kid's teacher sounds really weird to not be all for athletics. I remember my teacher (who practically played with every major orchestra in the world) told me he played baseball and basketball during his youth, and golf when he was a bit older. Playing a sport is a much better alternative to sitting in front of a TV all afternoon which so many of these 'pampered' musicians do. Not to knock this country (I love it), TV is the big reason 1 in 3 people in this country are obese.

April 13, 2007 at 10:46 PM · i agree with the above opinions. my guess on the teacher's attitude toward baseball is that it can be a dangerous sport (is there one that is not dangerous?:)

while it is possible to get hit by a ball, get a finger sprain, shoulder pain, etc, it is part of life. as nate said, only playing violin is really very unhealthy, at least socially speaking as well.

since you have no idea where your kids will end up , better prepare them to be well-rounded with interests and skills.

also, if you can handle your nerves on the ballfield, you can handle stage fright better.

April 14, 2007 at 01:47 AM · I posted another simular thread and boy did it go nuts : )

My daughter is also a serious violin student and we had reservations about roller skating. By the way she did great and I am glad she got that opportunity.

I think some sports are ok as long as you are careful and take precautions.. like gear etc.

The teacher may scoff at the baseball but that sounds like it is her problem. We are going to start swim team soon.. great sport low injury and good relaxation.

Good luck with the teacher

April 14, 2007 at 06:20 AM · For a kid, who needs action and raging itself out, another great violinist sport is fencing: traditionally fair, the left arm is safe, the right one gets an acupuncture for free. Very athletic, once you aren't concentrated or leave the relaxed, technical path, you're done in a minute. Kids love fencing!

Concerning the orchestra: there weren't anything, I loved more, than playing in an orchestra or chamber music as a kid. I think, it's very important, in particular if he already miss his old orchestra.

April 14, 2007 at 09:02 PM · I think that it is may be ok for your son to play baseball as long as it is not the same day as his violin lesson:) I however do have some concerns.

Your son needs to do some serious streching in addition to his sport. I have noticed that so many children (especially boys)lack enough flexibility to touch their toes for instance. Many sports are a really great cardio vascular workouts but at the same time they may be detrimental to children'sposture (rounded shouldres ansd so on). And correct posture is so important for violin playing!

Lucia

April 15, 2007 at 08:47 PM · My son's teacher is a man from Venezuela. We are in Georgia. His concern with violin is that his son played baseball, and eventually it interfered with his hand flexibility. I think his teacher has high aspirations for my son's future with the instrument. There is one orchestra for young children, but in light traffic, it is one hour away, and hectic driving. I am hoping to stimulate enough interest in the local community to start an orchestra near our home. Thanks so much for all your input. Another big question I have, is there a way to help my son feel the story, passion of a song, piece of music? He enjoys practice, but I can hear him play everything with the speed of the William Tell Overture if there are children on street playing, or anything that he wants to "get to". Some days out of nowhere he plays with such passion and feeling, and it's so beautiful, but most of the time not. Does that just come with maturity? There is a little language barrier with his teacher, but once he described/categorized different music selections like water, fire, flowers, and the fourth I can't recall. Is this common among musicians?

April 16, 2007 at 04:31 AM · At age seven, certainly he can learn some expression, but I wouldn't worry about it too much if he wants to play fast (kids hearts beat fast, they all want to play fast) and isn't always playing with precocious passion and feeling. Just keep practicing, and the big thing: find things to enjoy about it; pieces that fit his current outlook on life. Allow him to grow into the feeling and passion part.

April 16, 2007 at 12:12 PM · I imagine the reason the teacher is not happy about the baseball is because of the fear that you will deem sports a priority and music will be lower on the ladder.

I can't say how many times parents of my students miss lessons or are late due to a sports game.

In music lessons, sometimes you are paying up to $1 a minute for the teachers' time, in sports, maybe in a group, 50 cents every five minutes. Even though the music is more worth the time and money, parents consistently place their children's sports events over music.

That, I believe, may be the teacher's concern. It's always mine.

April 16, 2007 at 12:47 PM · A seven-year-old is pretty young fo people (like his teacher) to be thinking your boy needs to make life choices right now. An orchestra for kids is as much about a social group and the moral support of being with a number of other musical kids, especially if you are where violin isn't a "boy thing". At seven, he may or may not be dealing with those feelings yet. An orchestra will probably be more important later. I'd say he should go ahead and play ball. Get him top-line mitts, maybe some cool wrist guards or sports gloves, etc., and seek out a coach who doesn't stress or press, teaches kids good warm-ups, rotates players in a lot, etc. Sue

April 16, 2007 at 01:40 PM · I'm sorry, Sue, but seven is actually on the older side in terms of starting violin lessons if one's goal is serious, professional involvement. The poster's son is seven and in book four, which leads me to suspect that he's been playing for a while now. And while it is certainly premature to make an irrevocable decision with someone at that level it is not too late to start thinking about avoiding the closing of some doors to him.

My main disagreement with you is about age being the deciding factor about when it is or isn't premature to make a decision about a kid's future. That decision is made by the kid's talent, interest and level of advancement. So if, for instance, a seven year old has been playing for three years and is already playing "real" repertoire (e.g. Bruch concerto or Mendelssohn concerto) then you have a veritable wunderkind on your hands and had darn well BETTER make a decision about how to shape his next three to six years, as they will DIRECTLY determine his livelihood. If a hypothetical kid, at that age and level of advancement, has parents who are trying out a "wait and see" approach and are trying to give him dozens of activities in order to make him "well-rounded", that kid has parents who are - out of the kindest but most misguided motivations - closing the doors to a potential solo career. Mind you, I'm not saying that stage parenting such a child, helping him or her to focus on violinistic studies will DEFINITELY result in a career. Just that treating such a talent as though it were just advanced hand-painting or after-school soccer is simply silly.

April 16, 2007 at 03:20 PM · Right, a seven years old should not be forced to make a life choice. However, every seven years old should be supported so it will have life choices at all later on. As every healthy child in a healty family has got a quite wide spectrum of interests the art of education lies in reducing the number of actual activities with regard to talent to be nurtured and important missing qualities to be developed.

So if there is an obvious musical talent it should get priority. Physical education should be chosen to prevent all kinds of instrument playing syndroms.

FMF

April 16, 2007 at 04:33 PM · Dear FMF--I agree 100% with your attitude about being supportive. When I was 9 and was showing signs that I might like to pursue a musical carer my parents put every stumbling block they could think of short of stopping my lessons to make me abandon such a path. After it finally turned to emotional blackmail I could no longer take the abuse and finally gave up. I still think that being well-rounded is over-rated. Being a whiz of a violinist is better than sucking at softball!!

April 16, 2007 at 06:07 PM · Well Gang...I agree with Emil...100% but kids do need exercise to have a good attitude. Opportunity does not wait for the 9th inning. Joking aside, I am a parent too. We have found that whatever sport or activities we encourage our son to pursue, must include flexibility in his schedule. Some of these teams are very rigid, and demand more committment due to their competative nature. The team wants to win, no matter what book he is on!!! And well they should.

We have our young son in gymnastics, swimming, and skiing but don't pursue team sports too much, as the schedules can be grueling. This way, if he has homework, or a recital, he can reschedule his workout and not feel he is missing something and still do a solid practice. This flexibility also allows him to practice more when he is in the mood, instead of being too militaristic about the practice schedule at a time dictated by the other activities. If he is talented and willing to work hard, give him the schedule that will allow him to take advantage of the opportunities in music that will not doubt come his way in the coming years. Half of opportunity is recognizing it, and then being prepared for it. Our son is doing great on violin due to not over committing to a schedule that grinds the kid up. He is very prepared for his lessons, recitals, and orchestra, instead of sawing through the songs on his way out the door. As a result he loves working on violin, which makes us happy too.

Good Luck to you and your little guy!

May 20, 2009 at 04:56 AM ·

my 2 cents...any teacher worth a buck knows how important being well rounded is in overall childhood development.  my advice, its time for a new teacher that understands kids as much as they "appear" to understand music.  both are equally important.  so...keep your kid in baseball.

hope that helps,

ross christopher
www.rosschristopher.com
www.myspace.com/rosschristopher

May 20, 2009 at 07:38 AM ·

Although I'm a student and far from being a parent or an expert...

My teacher is really picky with bowing... it's part of her teaching style. But she told me quite a few times that I have a nice bow arm thanks to my swimming, and a nice flexibility in the left hand thanks to badminton (I'm left-handed). Well, thank you Mrs. Walker! :) But the point is that she appreciates students who go out and play sports because it keeps us "fresh" and "have healthy arms." I suppose we don't always notice the other effects of sports other than increasing our physical condition! There is hand-eye-coordination, muscle-memory, reflex, etc. All of these help in playing an instrument, at least in my teacher's opinion.

Being someone, I suppose, closer to your son's age, I would definitely advocate on a personal level that he should do both. Orchestra is indeed very fun and very rewarding. It's a good opportunity for your son to expand his musical knowledge and interest as it did mine. Why not take the challenge for now? If it's too tiring then by all means do what is necessary, since of course, school is a priority.

However, if he's going to make home runs, he's definitely going to bring fire to a Tzigane... ^^

May 20, 2009 at 01:19 PM ·

My two cents! Many great violinists were\are quite sportive people.  Menuhin did yoga, Joshua Bell has a high level of golf, Vadim Repin plays tennis, Sarah Chang does all kind of sportive hobbies and did horseback riding and ballet along with her violin when she was young.   My teacher is very good in golf.  Some students (amonst the best) at my conservatory played tennis! Many many girls do Ballet and violin at this age. The daughter (very good player for her age!) of someone here plays golf.  etc etc etc etc etc

Yes non sportive violinists exist too but anything that can improve body coordination is GOOD!  Violin requires such coordination!  The only dangerous sports are those where you can break fingers because fingers can recover well or...not when broken.  Vadim Repin said that Volley = a trip to the hospital for violinists lol!  

In addition your son is not at the age where school studies keep him from doing various activities.  This day will maybe come and he will be happy to have done all this when he was young!

Only my two cents,

Good luck,

Anne-Marie

May 20, 2009 at 02:15 PM ·

I vote for letting the kid do team sports. They will help him develop as a social and coordinated human being.

I grew up in an era when the only team sports we had were schoo PE or "sand lot." I thought that was great and was proud of my prowess with a baseball bat (or a broom stick). I was playig the violin long before and very, very long after those days.

Of course, there is always the risk of sports injury. Playing softball with my father some 65 years ago, he broke a finger in his "catching hand", which prevented his activity as an amateur violinist and professional pathologist for quite some time. But he got over it.

Normally, I would not think playing in an orchestra was an important thing for a 7 year old violin student. But a 7 year old (or any violinist who is at the level of Suzuki Book 4) can profit from the musicianship and discipline of the orchestral experience. Also, there is a lot of technique in good orchestral playing that he has not yet had - so it can depend on the quality of the orchestral experience and of those leading it.

Andy

May 20, 2009 at 02:52 PM ·

Outdoor activities are important for any growing child, and are important for adults!!!! The key word here would be ballance & prioritizing.  This is a great time for the child to learn these two very important tools for life!  There's a time for all things!  Someday the child may be a parent also.  And by learning now the tools of ballance and prioritizing sports/violin/homework/chores he can become a very productive and successful person!  I have to work, I need time for violin (lessons & practice) my church is community pro-active (vissiting people at their homes doing volenteer work helping others with needs, etc.) even time being a friend for my friends including time spent with the children of our single parents who don't have a dad!  And I have time for me! Evening walks, hiking, fishing, camping, collecting wild flowers/pressing them/making herbal medicinal tinctures, etc.  I learned ballance & prioritizing when I was a boy...and still am learning, but I'm greatfull for the adults in my life that taught me when I was very young!

royce

May 21, 2009 at 12:03 AM ·

I definitely agree kids should do a bit of everything, especially at that young age.

Additionally, unlike Andrew, I think that playing in an orchestra from an early stage in the violin learning process is really highly recommended.   Children learn so many skills from having to play alongside and with others and quite apart from that it gives him the chance to make friends with other musically inclined kids as well.  It does sound from the original post that the lad misses orchestra and as a parent I'd be picking up on that feedback and doing my best to find another suitable group for him to join as quickly as possible.

May 21, 2009 at 02:05 AM ·

Although this is a very old post (2007!) brought back to life today, I'll put in that the well rounded approach is probably best.  That said, I don't understand why you'd allow your kid's violin teacher to be in a position to approve or disapprove of your kid's activities!  Seems unprofessional. 

May 21, 2009 at 05:08 AM ·

Gee, a post I can speak on with some expertise (sort of).  My son, now 15, has been playing baseball since age 9 and playing violin since age 6 1/2.  Until recently, the two have gone together quite well.  However, being that my son is a pitcher, there was a challenge this year in the fact that on his high school team, he was overused as a pitcher (and I didn't pay enough attention to that fact) and the last week, his arm felt "dead".  The good news is that the season is over and after about 3 days rest, his arm feels pretty good (as evidenced by a good lesson today).  Lesson learned:  be more aware of what's going on on the baseball team and teach your kid to say no.  I'm glad the season is over and my son agrees that if he plays during the summer, he won't pitch.

 

I agree that early orchestral or strings orchestra experience is very good.  My son was a part of a strings ensemble from the age of 7 until 13.  (He joined a university orchestra at age 12)  It was a *wonderful* experience, both for learning to play in a group and for learning various genres and styles of music.   They had many opportunities to perform and it was an important part of his life for a number of years. 

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