School Problems

November 10, 2007 at 02:56 PM · Has anyone ever had this problem? I am basically asking this to middle-high schoolers, but if you have your own story to share, please do!

Lately, when I go to school, people are always talking about me. They call me the "violin freak", "classical music retard", and, worst of all, "violin playing chink". There are other names, but I wont mention them. Whenever I enter a room (I'm in 8th grade), everyone whispers, and starts asking me questions like, "So, where's your violin today? Oh yeah! I remember now, I smashed it!" Once, when I had my $15000 dollar violin in its case slung around my back, someone kicked the case really hard and ran away. (Because it was a BAM case, the violin just went out of tune). At another time, my German teacher, who loves classical music too, was playing some Bach on her CD player and a kid turned around and said, "So, bitch, how much did you pay her to play this?" Many of these comments hurt my feelings. It seems like people take every possible chance to make fun of me because I'm not like a lot of them. I like classical music, and I hate football. I fear that I may be ranting, because there certainly are people that do admire me and commend me. Does anyone have this problem?

Replies (100)

November 10, 2007 at 03:01 PM · Sure - but only when I was in middle school. Most middle schools are kinda Lord of the Flies (a book you will read, and recognize people from, before you graduate). It gets continually better from here out, high school is much better than middle school and college is much better than high school, but that doesn't stop the bullying now.

In my experience, adult intervention can only stop the overt acts and not change the hateful, poisonous culture. Since your parents are supportive enough to launch you with a terrific instrument, is there some high-academics school around where the kids would be more achievement-focused? You've been astute enough to recognize as a peer group, so I hope you find your peer group in your city. It probably exists. My mom actually moved our family to a city that had a national-class music program when we were in elementary school, for that reason.

November 10, 2007 at 04:26 PM · So many ways to answer a question like this one. There's certainly not hordes of people who understand and like classical music out there, especially in middle schools. ;)

I certainly wouldn't stop doing anything that I enjoy (like the violin) just because someone tells you it's stupid, at least if it's not stupid. But I probably don't need to mention that - it certainly doesn't sound like you're listening to some of your more dumb classmates.

Football is certainly very popular. Even if you dislike it, knowing a little about it can be helpful if for no other reason that you have some idea what people are talking about. And it takes very little time to become educated about football - especially compared to playing the violin!!!! In fact, 5 minutes of checking out your local paper on Sunday night ought to do it.

When I lived in Seattle I had a friend whose wife knew nothing about sports. At the time there was this basketball player named Derrick McKey who was extremely talented but perhaps not very intense. So he taught her to say "Derrick McKey. Great player, but he'll break your heart every time." Worked like a charm. People loved it.

Since you live in Virginia, the local team is probably the Washington Redskins. You can just say, "They should never have let Mark Brunell go." And when the guffaws come all you have to say is "There's no replacement for veteran leadership." If the guffaws still come, just say it again, or any of many derivatives of it like, "He might be old, but he's savvy - Experience is underrated - I think he has a lot of mileage left." If anyone exposes your true lack of interest in football you can say "I care more about football then you care about my violin."

I don't have any idea whether or not this answers your question, but hope it helps, if perhaps only a little. ;)

November 10, 2007 at 04:24 PM · Smart...I am going to try that. Thanks!

November 10, 2007 at 04:26 PM · The Redskins have a better QB now with Jason Campbell...:)

November 10, 2007 at 04:40 PM · No way! There's no replacement for veteran leadership!! Bring back Mark Brunell!!! (grin grin smiley face)

Acutally, from a quick perusal of the Redskins website I see the immediate concern du jour is the health of the wide receivers Santana Moss and Antawn Randle-El. (Those are the guys that catch the passes that the quarterback throws, Brian)

November 10, 2007 at 04:47 PM · Brian,

what these people say or shout are just sounds, noises. You (and only you) are the one who gives these sounds the meaning disturbing and offending you. Or did you enter the music field to improve public recognition or to have more friends? If so: WRONG motivation. You should make music because it offers you the satisfaction making you happy and stable and because it's a wonderful form of sharing emotions and developments with people who like and mainly also deserve it.

People attacking you for your way of structuring your life and giving it sense and direction, just do not deserve your attention, simple as that. The easiest way to loose yourself and make your life miserable is striving for as many friends as only possible. Be selective and understand as early as only possible in live: people ARE different and people for sure are not of equal value to you, not even to society. Bluntly: there are bad people and there is no way to make sure such people are not part of your family or your class or your neighborhood. Learn to deal with this group, avoid interaction as much as possible and do never overestimate your ability to bring out the good in people who really couldn't care less.


November 10, 2007 at 04:55 PM · Brian,

Just for the record, I agree with FMF.

But I also think that knowing a little about those around you is important. It's part of the "jungle" in which you navigate around.

It's hard to know your exact situation, but if 5 minutes a week can solve your problem, I think it's worth it.

I agree that I wouldn't overdo trying to please people.


November 10, 2007 at 04:46 PM · Brian, I am so sorry you have been treated like this. Some of my middle school students get picked on for playing violin. I have had parents stop the violin lessons during the middle school years in order to avoid the negative peer backlash. The social pressures of middle school can be vicious.

One of my middle school students was enrolled in a suburban, middle/upper-middle-class school. Her fellow middle school girls had come up with a "Cool Rating System", built on a 1-5 scale. A girl could earn a 5 if she was very popular, and a 1 if she was considered "a dork". The rates were established by consensus of the 5s. My student had been holding steady at 4, but when it was discovered that she liked school, proudly earned As, read books for fun, and played the violin, she was dropped down to a 3.

Then her "friends" at school stopped talking to her, because they didn't want their own ratings to be tainted by her lack of status. She was shunned.

Her Mom complained bitterly to the teachers, and administration, to no avail. Evidently, this "Cool Ratings System" is being actively encouraged by the moms of the 5s. So this year, she is much happier enrolled in Catholic School!

I hope you can talk to your parents about this. I doubt that any adult can stop this sort of teasing, but it might make you feel better. I agree with Bill about "The Lord of the Flies" bit.

Also, when you are old like me, people will think it is really cool that you play violin. And then they will ask if you know how to play "The Devil Went Down To Georgia"! (insert smiley face here) Good luck, and hang in there!!!

November 10, 2007 at 05:21 PM · Wow must be going to public school in husband was very dedicated to the classical guitar when he was the same age, growing up near where you are, and had an awful time too

...I have two suggestions: I don't know if this would increase your problems or not: A friend of mine in high school who was a very dedicated violinist was able to work a deal out with his school so that he only attended til 11 am or noon, and was able to take the rest of the day to practice the 6 hours that his program of study required. Other kids might resent you for this, however, and make your problems worse. It's true as everyone is saying that words are just words, but there seems to be a degree of hostility towards you and your violin that I find alarming.

My second suggestion, since you're in your last year of middle school - You're not that far from DC - why not look for a private or magnet school geared towards the arts, and apply for a scholarship or something like that. Given your level of involvement in music, it shouldn't be beyond your reach.

In the meantime...what kind of music do the kids in your school like? Guaranteed, there's a violinist that plays it - hip-hop, hard rock, country, all have groups that use the violin.... For example,The Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari plays with Kanye West, P-Diddy....these days any real strings you hear on a hip-hop track are probably her...using this defensively won't work, but finding a sneaky way to make them hear how "cool" the violin can be might make them lay off a little.

Good Luck and never stop playing!

November 10, 2007 at 07:15 PM · Hey Buddy, I understand what you're going through.

I was not only a violin player, but a violin playing preacher's kid! Oh, I wore the wrong kind of pants too, or something like that.

I don't have any specific suggestions, but it should get better toward the end of high school. Middle school is a particularly vicious time.

November 10, 2007 at 07:56 PM · Also, later down the road people will actually respect what you are's a noble cause...

November 10, 2007 at 08:21 PM · It's building your character.

I took my violin to school on a school bus in High School and some of the jocks thought it was very sissy. I guess I am the one feeling sorry for some of them now but I won't go into it because its not PC and schadenfreude isn't a virtue.

Work hard. The harder you do and the more you accomplish the more respect you will get. In the end you'll be happier.

November 10, 2007 at 08:34 PM · If you let it bother you, then it will bother you. If you choose to just brush off other people's comments, or to challenge their viewpoints, then they will probably respect you. Most times kids, such as middle schoolers, only really say things like that because they enjoy getting reactions from the individuals they heckle.

November 10, 2007 at 09:47 PM · Dude, I feel for you. I was an "orch dork" myself at a big public school in Maryland. When we went to the county (Arundel) orchestra competitions (at Old Mill High for instance) there would be loser S*&^heads standing outside the entrance, heckling us. OF course the same thing happened at science fairs.

I think that whole area is very classist. It is like suburban ghettos. Each suburb thinks the next one over are the "richy riches" and so you have stupid crap like that. There used to be huge rumbles at Crofton between the losers in Crofton and the losers in Bowie.

For me, I was big, and very white, and very strong. I felt intimidated but bluffed them back--and on two occasions I used my fists to settle the score. Sometimes you have to--but it has to be done smartly, so that they lose and you don't get kicked out of school. Violence is always measured and used to make it clear that further violence will lead to further pain.

It is training for somethiung, but it isn't good. It isn't good "character building." These experiences are totally useless for achieving success in the real world. They are more like little versions of war.

There isn't a good solution. You go to a S&^%$y school like I did.

November 11, 2007 at 12:54 AM · I heard that Bill Gates was quite the nerd.

One of my favorite quotes is,

"Be nice to nerds. You'll probably be employed by one someday." ;)

It's always interesting to go to high school reunions and see how everyone turned out.

Hang in there. You may be in an ugly time window, but your popularity now has nothing to do with how your life will turn out. Somehow you've sidestepped inclusion in the "dumber is better" culture, and this will ultimately serve you well.

November 10, 2007 at 10:33 PM · Well, I was a nerd, but being extremely outgoing and moving around all circles, made nerdism an art. Sometimes just facing perceptions assertively helps. I'm sure I was one of the first skateboarders back in the day, and so forth.

I agree with the comments to have balance in your life by knowing about things that are cool. But only if you really want to. So maybe try to pick up some activities that takes you, to the people rather than waiting upon some kind of mythical acceptance--that really doesn't come period. They just turn down the volume. I was reading an article in Strad or Strings about that competitive feeling even among adult string players recently.

And in the meantime, excel with your violin! And 'still' be outgoing and in their face with other things. Life is kind of like going up to a door to knock and ask someone a favor. If you don't knock the first time, you may not at all. And the asking becomes a boogey man, even though, it really, was just a cup of sugar!.

Finally, I'm pretty sure it was Heifetz who was all about a full and balanced life, with a lot of things going on.

November 10, 2007 at 11:19 PM · Have you thought about spending some time learning Funk and performing in front of the kids? Lots of great chop and rhythm techniques - you might become the school idol..........

November 11, 2007 at 12:53 AM · I think that deep down, those kids sense that your talent and intelligence are so great, that you are way beyoond their reach, hence the insecurity and jealousy.

I agree with the post that said you could fing a group of children with similar talent and interest to hang out with.

November 11, 2007 at 04:36 AM · "some time learning Funk "

yes... That is sort of what I was trying to say too....

November 11, 2007 at 08:48 AM · Don't let it get you down, Brian. I know it is horrible, I went through something like it 45 years ago, myself. Just don't let it affect how you think of yourself. You are a great kid. You will have the last laugh for sure. You will have a great life.

November 11, 2007 at 11:54 AM · Brian,

2 things:

I wouldn't take the "good" violin to school ever. In fact My daughters teacher has always stressed this. It's way to risky

I think a great quote for young people is " You enter this world an original don't leave a copy"

Ok 3 things. Bullying should not be tolerated. You have the right to learn in a safe environment in fact the racial slur hurled at you would be cause for detention at my daughters school. I don't know how your school works but the appropriate steps should be taken with your parents to put a stop to it.

November 11, 2007 at 03:51 PM · Hi,I agree with everyone who is telling you that your current age/grade may very well be about the worst for this. Typically so among girls. Boys didn't used to act quite so, or maybe don't in all places; more fast-smash in the face and back to being friendly. Assault-like behavior like kicking your vln.(and if he'd missed and kicked your head/hands/privates??) is another thing. In my opinion,it is past time for your parents to talk to counselors & administrators. They should use the style of response to determine if they are getting you out of there. Now. If there is phrasing like "boys will be boys", an undertone that the adults in charge agree with the bullies & just won't say so, or any snide "what did you expects", then the place isn't safe for you. Home-school for the rest of the year if need be, and find another place. Sue

November 11, 2007 at 04:45 PM · Brian, I work in a high school. The behavior directed toward you, especially the terms "chink" and "retard" are utterly unacceptable. I'd encourage you to speak to a counselor or administrator in your school as this qualifies as "bullying." If their behavior isn't nipped in a bud now they are going to create significant problems for themselves, and other students, in high school.

I'm from Colorado and we take it very seriously here, viz Columbine, which was triggered, in part, by years of bullying. Most school districts have a zero tolerance for bullying, racism, and such pejoratives as "retard."

Hang in there!

November 11, 2007 at 05:45 PM · Just remember one thing: when you get to the conservatory, you will be outnumbered by women 10 to 1. You'll get the last laugh.

November 11, 2007 at 06:00 PM · Also these people will probably be pumping your gas or flipping burgers in ten years....

November 11, 2007 at 06:10 PM · Yeah, take to heart the responses of this discussion, including the one that said to hang in there. Be true to yourself. Work hard in school. Be good at the things you like. And, in agreement as to what other people have posted, keep an open mind to things that interests others and engage them. It'll only make you a well rounded individual.

- Oliver

November 11, 2007 at 06:46 PM · Oh, sympathies! Just... sympathies. : (

The best thing about getting older and older is leaving those painful years further and further behind. It chills me, memory-wise, just to read your post and hey, I didn't even play the violin back when I was your age.

Sounds to me like one of those situations/years you will, for the most part, just have to tough out, while staying true to what matters to you. But remember we are all here sympathizing with you, so on a really bad day, you know the forum to come to!

Good luck! (And I love the suggestion of learning one little fact/comment about a local football star or his teammates, and just offer that one comment with a shake of your head. Brilliant!)

November 11, 2007 at 06:50 PM · Whoops, I just duplicated what Oliver said. How did I miss that post? Oh well. Wise words can bear being repeated.

November 11, 2007 at 07:15 PM · Ohh... I want to give you a hug right now. I'm a sophomore in college and I was in public middle school once... not a fan.

First of all, I'd like to say that you have something special and the other kids are jealous of your talent. I have a friend Stacey who would always reply "You're just jealous" to anyone who made fun of her... it shut them up quickly.

Second of all, definitely tell an adult about what's going on.

Third of all, in college there really is a 1:10 ratio of male violinists to female violinists.

Fourth, maybe learn some Metallica... go on and look up Apocalyptica for ideas for going beyond Bach... WOW! This group is amazing! Maybe study some hip-hop violin... yes, it does exist and it is great for exploring new sounds and techniques on your instrument. But definitely keep up with the Bach.

Fifth, I'd like to share my middle school "orch dork" story. I had terribly low self-esteem in middle school. Almost suicidal. But three things kept me going: Jesus, my parents, and music (and musical friends). I have a friend who is paralyzed from the knees down and he was made fun of a lot in middle school because of this and because he was a "cello freak." But we became very good friends and we're still good friends today and it is absolutely wonderful to have friends with the same interests.

Maybe you should see if there are opportunities to join a youth orchestra near where you live.

My middle school experience really makes me want to be a middle school music teacher, so more people will be educated about classical music and hopefully they'll realize how cool it is.

Music is a wonderful gift. Don't give up, my wonderful violinist friend! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I don't think middle school has ever been anyone's favorite years. Later on, I practically had a fan club in high school. Anyway, you've got something really special. Don't let others take it away.

Remember the wise words of Stacey: "You're just jealous."

If you ever need to talk, feel free to send me a message via my profile. I'd be glad to talk to you.

November 11, 2007 at 07:34 PM · That is absolutely outrageous. Playing a violin is great and you should be proud of it (I'm not saying you aren't). They have no right to belittle you or insult you in any way. Do not feel degraded by such comments. If you have had enough, then bring it up to any responsible adult. I know you've probably heard that many times, but it is actually effective if it is a trustworthy and responsible adult. The problem should be taken cared of. I personally have been faced with this situation in my middle school, but not to this extent. I can tell you however, that in high school, no one makes fun of you for what you do(i think it's a maturity thing... at least in my school no one does) Good luck though , just try to stick it out.

November 11, 2007 at 08:47 PM · I think it's a bit arrogant to say that "they're just jealous". Most kids couldn't less about classical music, just like you wouldn't really be jealous of someone who is really good at the baton or computer programming. The fact is, a lot of kids are just really mean at that age so all you can do is tough it out. The WORST thing you can do is actually starting to think you're superior to them. A pompous social outcast is pretty much the worst thing you can be.

Kill them with kindness... comming from a person who more often than not was/is doing the making fun of (although I never made fun of innocent kids), there's nothing that puts a stop to things faster than turning the other cheek, and respecting yourself in spite of their lack of respect for you. I'm sure you'll be fine, but don't ever think you're superior to someone. If there is no reaction, just a smile, they'll really have nothing to make fun of for very long, I can promise you that.

November 11, 2007 at 08:58 PM · I agree with Pieter. Take the "higher road" and try to rise above the teasing, but try to remain kind and calm. If you belong to a youth orchestra or go to a summer program, enjoy making like-minded friends. I know this sounds hard to believe, but middle school will be over before you know it. Hang in htere and good luck.

November 11, 2007 at 09:50 PM · Learn how to play "Iron Man" or "Smoke on the Water" on your violin. Your image will change in 5 seconds and the kids will like you. I've done this many times and it works (if you're willing to play such music).

November 11, 2007 at 10:38 PM · Greetings,

don`t have much to add that hasn`t beed said but after working through the repsoinses these are the points that come most strongly to mind.

1) The school has responsibiltiy for creating an atmosphere of mutual respect to all. If the lakc of respcetc ytranslates into violence against you such as kicking that is serious and some action needs ot be taken. However, injury to a person is deifnitely caused by language too but schools often have neitehr the resources nor the attitude to dela with such problems.

2) Youare a talented kid so I think you should go to an environemnet where this talent is nutured. I have absolutely no faith in the cocnpets of a `general education` or `mixing with a variety of peers` as guides for the bets way of growing up. The nicest well balanced peopel I meet have usually spent a lot of timne out of the mainstream as it were.

3) It does get better as you get older, but it may be too late unless you are at least a litlte proactive in doing something now.

4) Yep. If you haven@t already noticed, chicks prefer violinists to jocks- even ugly buggers like me...

5) Although I agree one hundre dpercent with FMF about not taking on other people`s crap because it is their problem this can be really hard to do. It can help to have a tool. I therfore strongly reocmmend you take upa martial art. Aside from building the inner confidence of self discpline, the knowledge that everytimne someone disses you yu could beta the crap out of them therefore thye are pathetic, it is good exercise. It will also stand you in good stead as you get older and enjoy your burgeoning career as a violinist.



November 11, 2007 at 10:47 PM · David it's nice to know that I wasn't the only violin-playing PK.

Brian, everyone else has said it all. Only you can judge how much you can or are willing to take. Just don't wait until you reach your breaking point.

November 11, 2007 at 10:54 PM · Brian,

I feel for what you are going through. When I was in high school (back in the 80's), I had long hair and was a fluent rock guitar player. I had my own small circle of 'metal heads' but we were shunned by most of the kids in my school as well as by most of the teachers and administration.

There was one 'big' situation that happened. I'm going to give you the details but BY ALL MEANS AM I TELLING YOU TO HANDLE IT IN THIS MANNER. My father was a tough-guy growing up in the 50's and early 60's, and he was an amateur boxer. He tought me and my brother to be respectful of everybody but if somebody wanted to push us around to not stand down and fight back immediately. I was of smallish size in high school (around 150 pounds), and my junior year the star running back of the school football team decided to show off in front of his friends and slam me against a locker when I wasn't looking. A teacher immediately stopped me from trying to get him and he walked off laughing with his friends. I could have just let it be and give people the impression that I was a pushover, which would probably lead to more bullying. The next morning I went looking for him, and he was shocked that I was in front of his face. He couldn't act like the tough guy since his friends weren't around. I ended up breaking his jaw in three places, ending his football season.

Some people think they are tough until you stand up for yourself. You certainly do not have to resort to fighting, but if someone wants to be the tough guy in front of you, maybe you (when you don't have your violin with you) should get in his face and ask him how tough he thinks he is. If you stand up for yourself once, you probably will never have to do it again.

November 11, 2007 at 11:09 PM · I had a cheapo violin that I left in a locker at school outside the orchestra rehearsal room, and I left my good violin at home, only bringing it in to school for orchestra concerts. So people in school rarely saw me carrying a violin around. When they did, I told them it was a machine gun. But that was in 1982--that comment wouldn't work today ;-)

November 11, 2007 at 11:54 PM · Don't take it personally. The skills and interests you have will serve you well as an adult, while those other rednecks will be losers as adults.

Sociologically speaking, you are more likely to get taunted if you are a male in an environment where redneck machismo and violence are more prized than civility and education.

In contrast, my daughter's musical peer group does not feel that kind of pressure, because we live in an affluent suburb where education is respected, adult role models around here are those of success through civility, and uneducated redneck losers cannot afford to live here.

In a global environment of increased competition, we need to more-fully embrace education and stop tolerating freeloading redneck moochers. Too many parents are not doing their jobs.

Maybe your parents should talk to the parents of the other child so they know about their child's disgraceful and illegal behaviour. Then again, the parents are usually inattentive anyway, so instead maybe they should talk to the principal. Write something in writing so you have a record of it.

Long term, improve yourself through education to the point where as an adult you do not have to live near them. Then the only time you will see them is when they serve you at McDonalds.

(As an interesting side-note, the noted black conservative intellectual Thomas Sowell recently wrote a book arguing that violent inner-city culture came from the redneck sub-culture of the South, which originally came from a roughian Scottish immigrant sub-culture.)

As far as your immediate problem, say something like, "I believe in the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as written in the Declaration of Independence, which means we are free to choose what we like and it's nobody's business."

November 12, 2007 at 04:13 AM · I'd be inclined to pound them in the face. If you're scared, or there are too many of them, get some friends and go jump them after school.

No, just kidding... DON'T do that. It's not necessary. They're insecure about something- their status with their friends, their drunk and abusive or absent fathers, their frigid or drug abusing mothers, who knows. Kids like that become very good at sniffing out any weaknesses and insecurities the kids around them may have, and exploiting those weaknesses to make themselves look better in front of their particular group of "friends".If you didn't play violin, they'd just use some other excuse to try and get a reaction out of you. The good news is that eventually everybody loses interest in that sort of game and the guys who want to play it, and those guys fall farther and farther behind in life. So just keep your head down, ride it out and report any real threats to your teachers. Stick up for yourself when it makes sense, but don't make yourself even more of a target by getting visibly upset by them. Spend your time cultivating your own group of friends instead of thinking about these folks.

There was a kid in seventh grade who used to pick on me like that. Bless his poor, messed up little heart, he died in jail of aids in his twenties. His problems had nothing at all to do with me or the violin- I was just an easy target at the time for what must have been a tremendous amount of rage and confusion. I remember fantasizing about hitting him, but I'm glad now I didn't. He had enough problems.

November 12, 2007 at 02:23 PM · Brian, I have kids your age who also play instruments. I know how hard the middle school years can be on kids.

First, I'd like to see you talk with your parents about what is happening to you at school. Your parents will want to know that this crap is happening. One of my daughter's was singled out in middle school. She did not tell me right away that some other girls were picking on her, she thought she could handle it on her own. Well, it only got worse. Once she explained to me what had been happening to her at school, I was at the school meeting with two of the teacher's involved, the principal and the guidance counselor. Every school in the United States now has a written policy AND obligation to prevent bullying and sexual harassment. My conversation with the school was this, either they put a stop to this behavior or I would go to the school board next and further if need be. Schools don't like bad publicity. The bullying stopped for my daughter and the middle school also started having class session's on reporting bullying to teacher's.

Your parents cannot help you solve this problem if you don't make them aware that it's happening. You have the right to attend school and not be teased or bullied while you are there. You need to report this behavior. No, you are not a tattle-tale, or a cry baby. Unfortunately in today's world, we don't know what kids are capable of. This bullying could escalate to violence. You need to put a stop to it ASAP.

Also, with my daughter, her complaint was anonymous. The school didn't tell the girl bullies who had told on them...for one thing they were picking on several girls, not just my daughter. The school basically told all the students that anymore complaints about bullying and the student(s) would be expelled for three days. The second offense would involve the student needing to go to the school board for review and to be reinstated as a student or they would have to attend the alternative school for kids with problem behaviors.

The big problem with public/private schools these days is, there is so much bullying going on that no one cares. The bullies are usually the sons and daughters of the parents who are giving the most money to the school so the schools are scared to complain because they don't want to lose the funds these families and these family businesses give. Or, they are the star athletes so once again, the school doesn't want to discipline these kids because then they'll lose them for the big game on Friday. Such is life in the USA.

Please talk to your parents about this and go to the school with your complaints.

November 12, 2007 at 04:24 PM · So, T, basically your idea is to go bully the administration of the school??? Nice...

Having worked in several schools and taught students from pre-k through 12th grade, I can tell you with certainty that NO SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR wants to see this sort of behavior, and it's usually punished severely, even if it means "losing the big game" or losing money from big donor parents (we have sooo many of those in the public schools, you know.)Because bullying ruins the atmosphere of the classroom and so retards the progress of the class, it's taken very seriously almost everywhere, as far as I can tell.

That doesn't mean that parents shouldn't talk to school teachers and administrators about a problem their kid is having, but let's leave the threats out of it.

November 12, 2007 at 04:58 PM · No advice here, just some empathy, because I know how it feels.

I feel partcularly strongly about the racist remark. I got it once when I was studying in London. I know it feels worst than any kind of bullying.

I am also aware of the situation my boys will face up later. We are ethnically Chinese and we now stay in the South. Sports is big here! But my sons are hardly the athletic type. I will choose their schools very carefully.

November 12, 2007 at 05:12 PM · Briam,

First of all, I would second the suggestion that you go to your parents. Some ideas have been offered of how this can be dealt with, it might be worth making a note and going for it, threatening to go higher if need be.

Buri, I feel some concerns as regards your suggestion on two counts.

One, that when/if Brian were to start martial arts lessons, sooner or later those kids would probably find out. They might wish to 'test' his skills, especially when together as a group, and this before he has gained sufficient skills to fight them off. This apart from the possibility that practising martial arts hurts and might damage hands/arms.

Secondly, I once worked with someone whose husband was black belt in some martial art - can't remember which (though funnily enough I remember her name even though she was a temp). She talked more than she worked.

She would brag all day about how brilliant a fighter he was, regaling us about how many people he fought off, how they were followed once by troublemakers and he made mincemeat of them etc etc. I remember thinking, I don't know martial arts. Glad I've never been in that situation. Though it did sound like trouble seemed to follow them around.

A few months after she left, I was reading the evening paper. There was an article about her, her husband and some others. The husband (his name escapes me) had been caught unawares, from behind by some machete wielding guy who'd sliced through half his skull. He was in hospital in intensive care. Clearly his super duper skills had not served him so well on that occasion.

I just think that sometimes violence breeds violence.

I think some other suggestions give here might be a better way out for a talented youngster. One does not have to get down to their level. Better to get out some other way if one can.

I really respect you Buri. Please don't take the above as any sort of criticism. Just throwing in my two cents of experience. Some martial arts do teach you to find a peacable way out first if at all possible.


PS Brian, it might not be a bad idea to do as Karen did, and get/take a cheapo violin to school if you must take it to school. Save the other one for concerts/later. At your level it will not be fun to play. But on the other hand if they want something to direct violence against, let them take it out on that rather than you.

November 12, 2007 at 08:01 PM · Howard V., I hate to take this thread off topic because Brian's concerns about bullying need to be addressed.

However, based on your post, I can only assume that you have never had children of your own who attended public or private school. Let me clarify a few things for you:

A) The clique of girls who were bullying my dd had been bullying girls all year. The school knew it was going on, they just chose to ignore it. One girl was the daughter of the high school softball coach and another was the daughter of the high school basketball coach.

B) You might note that my school conference included two teacher's in particular. The bullying was going on IN THEIR CLASSROOMS. One teacher is the wife of the H.S. football coach, the other is the wife of the Middle School principal. Do you see a pattern developing here?

C) Businesses set up charitable foundation's as a tax benefit to them. As a result, any non-profit organization may apply to the foundation for money. Our public school applies for and receives tens of thousands of dollars from three such foundations. The managers/owners of these foundations have had offspring in our school system for generations.

The bottom line here is, bullies who are left unchecked only become more empowered. Especially if the school faculty turn a blind eye. Until I went to the school with my complaints, bullying was NOT being punished, mof, it was not even being acknowledged by teacher's. Teacher's are supposed to be there to help students, not enable the bullies. Now, these situations occur in ALL schools, not just ours and not just Brian's. And unless you've had kids in a school system who have to deal with this on a daily basis, you have no clue.

I believe in a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying. I do not have the power to fire teacher's who turn a blind eye, but I do have the law on my side and there are appropriate steps that parents can take to insure their child is safe while attending school.

November 12, 2007 at 08:54 PM · Sorry if this goes further off topic, but I agree that a martial art can be useful. True martial arts is not violence but an "art form" and can be used as self defense. Only as self defense. I have my son in Tae Kwon Do and it has done wonders for his self confidence and self control - this helps him in many social situations. The tenets of TKD are very strict and a good instructor makes sure to teach them as part of every session. They include a vow to not misuse TKD and I believe the last one is "I will build a more peaceful world".

November 12, 2007 at 09:15 PM · I also support T Net's post and was surprised a bit by the "bullying the administration, nice..." remark.

I agree (as a middle school music teacher and parent) that these cases need to be pursued just as T described, when it is obvious that bullying gets a free pass. Every school system is different, and every school even within a district is different. Things depend very much on the guts of the administrators. And many of them are gutless, or just as small-minded as the bullies. Anyone who believes otherwise needs to visit more schools, or check out some literature on bullying. A very interesting read that contains some prize lack of administrative and community support in the face of abuse by "star members of the sports team" is Our Guys by Bernard Lefkowitz.

To the original poster--you should not be bringing that nice violin to school, you never know when a student who is bullying you is going to take it too far and harm the instrument. And follow the above people's advice regarding getting the school to do something about the bullying and abuse you are experiencing.

When I was in 8th grade, I went to a big city school with a strong music program and had a good circle of friends and experienced no problems. In the middle of 8th grade, I was moved by my parents to a small farm town. Surprisingly they had a small orchestra. I was a shrimpy kid with weird hair that played the violin, and was bullied hard for the next two and a half years. My nickname throughout high school was "cricket", which was pretty much my new name, and not a term of endearment. I was never beaten up, but there was plenty of emotional abuse and pushing around. One of the worst offenders was the principal's son. There was a youth symphony close by that I took part in during high school, and was pretty much a savior to me.

In my Junior year, I joined the cross country and track team (non-contact sports), which helped a lot to get me some more respect, and there was some maturing of many of the students along the way, so I did gather a fairly strong new group of friends by the middle of Junior year, and was able to finish high school much better than it began.

Still, those couple of years were very dark for me, and the emotional scarring will always be there. Hang in there.

November 12, 2007 at 10:21 PM · I went through a period from 5th grade through about 11th grade, probably typical for most girls, of "bullying". It was your usual snobbery among teenage girls, but I handled it by becoming a social recluse, and I had little to no friends. The one regret that I have when I look back was not being able to overcome my insecurities enough to reach out to people who may have been a good friend to me, if only I'd tried. So, my only advice to you would be to bypass the mean people without avoiding people altogether. Certainly, there are many others who feel exactly the same way you do, and not all of them will push you away if you are nice to them. You can't be friends with everyone, but you can step above insults and act like a worthwhile person (because you are), look people in the eye, smile, and be kind. It's tough to risk rejection, but it's the best thing you can do.

November 12, 2007 at 10:41 PM · Greetings,

Bernadette, I sympathize with the conerns you raise dabout matial arts however I respectfully disagree on both the points you raised.

Firstly the studnets may or may not find out. I don`t think any of them are attending any school that requires disipline. I have also found that the effetc of `wanting to try sonebody out` is not the usual case. Usually it is the opposite.

Second, young people who attend a good dojo quickly understand that what they are getting has little to do with proving anything to anyone else, bragging or whatever. Taht is one of the first thing that goes.And Brian is clearly a very mature teenager anyway.

What they do find is rapid personal growth, self esteem, respect for others and the benifits of comnpanionship and deep friendships.

Finally, the amount of injuries occuring in well run dojos are almost non existent. Thats why Midori Goto is a very advanced paractitioner of Karate. Although there are some safer than others. I have pracitced karate, kendo, aikido and Tai chi chuan. Much as I love it, I have found Akido to be an art that may not be compatible with violin playing no matter how carefully and sensibly it is worke d on. Too many Ukemi...

Consider even the art of Kendo. Japanese swordsmanship. You would think that would have no value in this case perhaps. But it serves to emphasize my point that martial arts are not necessraily pracitced to fight. They are practiced so taht you don`t fght. Learning a rigorous discipline such as kendo creates a tremendous projection of confidence and inner control that -terrifies - bullies because its what they don`t have. One of the sweetest and smallest guys I knew was my Shotokan instructor. I recall seeing him walk out of Charing Cross station at peak time once and the crowds just melted to let him pass. Not through fear but because the way he carrie d himself was instantly recognized as somethign to respect.

Anyway, Fiona said all this better than me becuase she has seen the effetcs first hand through her children.



The PS I want to having just looked at Emily`s post is that Brian, like any violinist needs to be very carefully not to acquire the habit of lonliness. To some extent it tends ot come with the job, as it were. But, by building up a group of other friends at a dojo I think Brian would also a)always have the notion of `I have a lot of friends` so to hell with you lot and b) actually project the idea You are irrelevent to me becaus eI have another social world` which is also somewhat discouraging to bullies in a rather subtle way.

November 12, 2007 at 11:23 PM · Greetings,

I am on a roll with this topic now (thanks Bernadette ;)) so here is another take on things.

I work in a country associated with martial arts. Here they are viewed as part of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the country and there is a strong movement within the ministry of education to make one of the following compulsory in all junior schools: judo, karate, kyudo, naginatado etc. If martial arts were such a recipe for emphasizing and developing skills in violent behavior and attitude begetting further violence then this would be a recipe for utter disaster. However, we know from experience this is not the case.

Now I can make a big jump to the third grade of my school. They are trying to get into the best possible senior high school and the entrance exams are tough. Nor can a regular school like mine (actually a rather good school) provide the sheer mindless grind of practicing memorizing facts for the kids to get into these SHS. In order to do this the kids have to attend cram school for three or four hours every night. If you ask them about `free time` they will smile politely and ask what free time you are talking about. When I work with the kids on my own I have them write or talk about what they are feeling and almost without exception they talk about the despair, depression and sickness they feel.

Those who just can’t hack it have given up and slumped into a kind of glazed catatonic stupor. Sometime, although they are apparently sentient, they may not even be able to answer a simple question such as what did you have for breakfast , in their own language.

Then there are just a few kids who remain bright, cheerful and reasonably successful from an academic perspective. They sit upright in class sand their eyes are a little brighter. I can always spot them and I always ask them straight out what martial art they practice. One of these cheerful little tykes is a national karate champion in his age range who traveled to compete in the Ukraine last year. He practices for three hours everyday. Has he ever either used or spoken of his karate in school. Not to my knowledge. He’s just a lovely well balanced kid. Another is a charming and bright 3rd grade girl who is a nidan (very high level) judoka who trains three days a week. Aside from being more alert and friendly in classes she is the same as any other student and the judo is never mentioned in her school life. She is quite clear that it is just something she likes doing and you can take it or leave it. She is not interested in talking about it.

A small snapshot of the martial arts in Japan: an ordinary thing that helps kids having a tough time to get through it and come out the other side wiser and stronger without carrying the scars of a miserable adolescent experience.



November 13, 2007 at 12:06 AM · Never be at a loss for words. That's what ended what's-his-name's political career. That and not being able to spell tomato. Or is it tomatoe? If the kid says "How much to play that, bitch?" Say, "About a hundred dollars, bitch." You don't want to lie awake for the rest of your life thinking about what you could have said, instead of four years of chix in the oval office.

A friend of mine runs a dojo and his thing is so cool. He's developed a style based on seeing yourself as doing what your opponent is asking you to do. A very effective approach! For example if someone is protecting some area, he's saying don't do anything here, do it there where I'm not protecting. And if all else fails, remember that after graduation the jocks work for the nerds.

November 13, 2007 at 12:09 AM · You can talk all you want about parent-teacher conferences but I can tell you that the bullies only find new ways to let you know that you had to have Mommy and Daddy fight your battles for you. There really is no escape within the toxic environment, and the scars are yours for life. If there is a way out, welcome it, there is no glory in licking old wounds someday far away.

November 13, 2007 at 12:17 AM · I don't have a lot of advice. I was an Orch-dork, and while I had a small group of friends who were supportive, I felt very out of place until I went to college, and began to be respected for my accomplishments on the violin.

However, I am concerned about the safety of your instrument, even with the good case. Is there a cheap violin from the school, or something your parents can purchase to keep at school? My high school had a closet for such instruments, but I don't know if yours does. If so, you wouldn't have to carry around your good instrument at the risk of bullies smacking into it.

November 13, 2007 at 01:30 AM · About the violin, you could also rent one pretty cheaply; I think you're not too far from Potter's in Bethesda? Potter's has very decent rentals for $25/month, I think. I have one right now for school myself.

November 13, 2007 at 04:16 AM · PS The other thing I did to prevent insults was I tried at least to look just like everyone else, even if I didn't act like them. I took careful note of what everyone else was wearing and how they fixed their hair, and I fell right in line. No nose picking or other strange quirks--they'll slay you for that. And make sure not to smell bad. Not too much cologne, either. Conformity was how I survived high school. I saved individualism for college, where that was all the rage.

Not saying this is what you should do, but it's what I did, and it worked okay. At least people left me alone for the most part.

November 13, 2007 at 04:52 AM · T,

Well, I guess that twenty years of teaching experience doesn't count for much in your eyes, and that was exactly my point. You see, you immediately jumped to the conclusion in your post that your (admittedly bad) experience in your locally controlled school was typical for schools all across the US. Then you basically suggested that threatening everybody up to and including the school board was the best way to handle the situation. Then you took a generally nasty tone with me, suggesting (absurdly) that I couldn't possibly know anything at all about schools unless I'd had a kid in one. Try working in a school for a little while, as I have, so you understand how often teachers have to deal fairly and evenhandedly with all kinds of abnormal behavior from all kinds of kids. Then come back (if you survive) and tell me I don't know anything!

Now, as for bullying, EVERY school system I have worked in has had robust anti-bullying policies because adminstrators know that that sort of behavior destroys the atmosphere of the class, ruins the victim's learning and undermines the purpose of the school. Believe it or not, most administrators work very hard to try to make the school a nice place to work and learn. Bullying at any level (student to student, teacher to student, administrator to teacher, PARENT to teacher... etc.) undermines the administrator's ability to create the best school possible and so very few administrators tolerate anything that even looks like bullying. As for the teachers, (and this may surprise you given your dismal view on the subject) for the most part, they really care about their students and want them to be happy as well as productive, so why would the teacher want to see kids get bullied? Also, obviously, this sort of behavior undermines the teacher's authority in the classroom and, trust me, NO teacher wants that!In fact, most teachers will do whatever they can to stop bullying in their class.

Sounds like the school you sent your daughters to was a mess, and that's really a shame. Given the depth of the problem at that school, why didn't you try to "opt out" to another school? I think if it were my daughter (she just turned a year old...) I wouldn't go tilting at windmills on her time, but would probably leave that school. How long did it take to finally resolve the problem? Since the board memebers don't have a boss other than the people who elected them, what was their response to your threat to "go higher, if necessary"? What exactly did you mean by that?


November 13, 2007 at 05:17 AM · One should always involve school administration people in such or similar situations to give them at least a chance to do their job right. However, with the right expectation level to prevent traumatic disappointment. To my knowledge there is not a single penitentiary worldwide which is free of drugs and violence. Despite all the measures taken in a prison. But a school administration should succeed in protecting the extraordinary from the ordinary? Isn't school all about making sure the lazy, passive, weak and instable pupils do not feel bad and left out? Isn't school all about putting the brakes on learning speed of the gifted and willing so the others get their fair chance?

The fact that one feels generally awful in a dentist's chair doesn't mean one should not go to the dentist regularly. The same holds true for schools. They are inhuman by definition, as long as one-to-one tuition will not be the style of choice. And this is not affordable in most societies. Better to find people, friends, relatives who give you the strength needed to make the best out of this inhumanity. Beware of "friends" manipulating you into illusions about school institutions. The habit of living with illusions is dangerous and leads to drugs and booze quite often.


November 13, 2007 at 07:19 AM · Brian,

I can't really add any advice that hasn't already been given, just more support.

As has been mentioned, these Neanderthals who now pick on you will, in 20 years, be working at MacDonalds & 7-11. They will be janitors, if they are lucky. They will be divorced, paying child support and living in trailer parks. The highlight of their lives will be getting drunk Friday nights at the local sports bar.

You, on the other hand, will likely have a wonderfu career (music or otherwise) and a life full of artistic reward. You will have intelligent, artistic friends.

You just have to find a way to survive the next few years.

FWIW, I had to carry a cello around as a kid. However, I did eventually join the track & baseball teams, and that made a huge difference. You might consider trying out for sports. Heck, it's good for your health, if nothing else.

I also like the idea of your learning martial arts. While this won't make you a "teammate," it will likely vastly improve your "cool factor." Even moronic meathead kids are impressed by someone learning martial arts. Plus, there may be a few of your classmates enrolled in the same dojo you join, so they would spread the word, maybe even become your friends. And, if nothing else, studying martial arts should improve your violin playing, as it teaches balance, concentration, inner-calm, etc.

My sympathies for your situation. Hang in there.

November 13, 2007 at 06:02 AM · FMF,

Aw come on, FMF, do I have to fight YOU again too? I LOVE your daughter's playing but YES, the "lazy, unstable, passive, etc." DO have a right to be educated, even if it makes things a little tough on the elite. We have to do this for at least the following two reasons:

1: Very often, the traits you mention are the result of grossly pathological home lives- I know because I've seen these situations up close. Whatever you may think of their parents, do you really believe that the kids of whom you speak are somehow inherently, and beyond any possibility of redemption lazy, unstable, passive etc? Do you believe, for example, that a second grade child who happens to be behind and a bit passive is irredeemably part of that terrible group you delineated? Is he morally responsible for being "lazy, passive" etc?

2: Do you REALLY want to create a vast hord of uneducated AND unhappy adults who can't get jobs and who only want to slit your throat, steal your car, sell drugs to your grandkids, etc?

The schools are trying the best they can to help these kids, even given bad budgets, second string leaders,flawed philosophy, naive teachers etc. The schools should be able to do better, and I'm sorry they got in your daughter's way, but it's vitally important to society to try to educate the "lazy, unstable, passive" members of our society, even against their wishes.

Oh, and by the way, instead of taking pot shots at the schools, why not help out by contributing in some way to the knowledge base that the schools use to do their work? You have done a phenomenal job of managing the education of your daughter and so would probably have much to say that would be news to the schools! How about a book about that process? I'm dead serious here, not being flip. So often it's hard to force any changes in the schools simply because the only voices weighing in on the school matters are the same set of folks who have been messing things up for a long time now. There is such a disconnect between school policy makers on the one hand, and scientists and "alternative educators" such as home schoolers,Suzuki, Montessori folks, on the other hand.

November 13, 2007 at 08:39 AM · Howard,

I agree with everything you have said here. We need these schools. And we need dentists! My children did have a fairly good time at school (and so did e.g. my sister and I), because I educated them as early as possible to understand that schools are not there to treat them with fairness. So they would not expect fairness and waste energy and tears fighting for it.

The necessity of an affordable school system does not say anything about how human and fair such institutions will be. And "affordable" equals to "inhuman and unjust" to the gifted and willing. Just so you call it: "makes things a little tough on the elite".

I am actually writing a book where I shall also cover the subject of preparing children for school and how to support them there. All this from both sides, as I worked as a university and high school teacher as well.


November 13, 2007 at 07:11 AM · Buri, I enjoyed your posts... For some reason I grew up not really caring or maybe just being oblivious to what others thought (not always a good trait but I did have many friends and did ok socially). I did get picked on at times and I do recall it being unpleasant but for some reason I was able move past it. My brother, raised exactly as I was, did not have the same experience and has had a different life. I am happy to say he has found himself in a good place in his thirties, and in a recent conversation he expressed wonder at why he let so many things sidetrack him and get him down. He is also a musician if that makes a difference. I see much of him in my older son... which is why we turned to Tae Kwon Do. I wish I could give my older son whatever attitude it was that I had. My middle child seems to have it. Everyone is different but I try to tell my kids that they choose how they let things affect them. There is a self control, self empowerment, or something that seems to be built upon when one learns a martial art or as I have discovered in recent years with yoga. Perhaps there is something there that can be tapped and solve all of these issues???! My children are young (7,5,2) so I may be naive and am open to that possiblity!

Brian, I hope that this dialogue is somewhat helpful to you. I think that what you are experiencing must be very hurtful. Please take the advice of others and address it with an adult. Your school has a responsibility to provide you with a safe environment for learning and growth.

November 13, 2007 at 09:14 AM ·

November 13, 2007 at 12:56 PM · When I was growing up in the late 40's and 50's, I was totally into my violin and classical music, whereas most (but not all) of the people my age were into rock'n'roll and all of the popular music celebrities and songs of that era. I couldn't tell one from another; I just wasn't interested. Yes, that was a problem; I wasn't nearly as popular as a lot of my friends.

Over time, I've found that one of the great things about getting older is that you find yourself developing a certain kind of inner confidence. You no longer are so worried about what other people think or what they say. You are no longer as concerned about your weaknesses. Not that you ignore them or stop working to improve, but you accept your weaknesses and your likes and dislikes as part of who you are.

If you take the time to really listen and understand the older people in your life, I think you'll find that they're not as worried about the problems of being "accepted" by others as you are. That's because they've been through it all in their lives, and they know that you will survive.

It may be difficult to achieve this kind of serenity when you're young, but I think it's possible to get a good taste of it now and then.

So, for what my opinion is worth, I'd say that whatever social flak you're getting for becoming a violinist, have faith that you are doing something that touches the possibilities for finding beauty and meaning in life that those taunting you can hardly imagine. And that's something they may never understand, but it's important that you understand it.

Cordially, Sandy

November 13, 2007 at 01:24 PM · Hey guys. Well,. I do have alot of the things you told me to do. I have a cheap violin at school, but I am afraid of telling. People will either make fun of me more or make me feel guilty for telling, or they will beat me up (happened at my old school). Thanks for all the help, guys! Please, I need to say, no more private messages! My mom is fed up with messages coming to her acct. (I have no e-mail acct).

November 13, 2007 at 01:38 PM · My wife and I have raised four children. We have generally taken a hands off position about school issues. Part of growing up is learning to deal with problems. We intervened one time when our oldest son was threatened by a group of toughs. We first called the counseling office and we were given the brush. We then left a message with the principal (saying if the school would not get involved that perhaps we needed to call the police) and we were surprised with the immediacy and intensity of the response. All of the toughs were suspended and two were transferred to an alternative school for youth with behavior problems. The administration apologized profusely for the initial brush off.

We returned to our hands off policy and let our kids work out their social problems without school administrative intervention. We tried to provide as much advice as parents can but I am doubtful of the quality thereof.

Brian when that case was on your back and it was kicked, you were assaulted. This is criminal behavior and you and your parents should have reported this to school administrators. If they would not do anything about it you should report it to the police.

November 13, 2007 at 02:42 PM · FMF,

That's great about the book- I want a signed copy!

We really need more information on the experience and education of high achievers and the highly gifted. That information is out there in bits and pieces, in the form of various curricula at places like West Point, Johns Hopkins, and Julliard, autobiographies and such by people at the top of their fields, and maybe now books by people like you who have navigated a way through an education system that doesn't have as it's priority supporting gifted children. I wonder what it would take to put all that together into a comprehensive approach which could be implemented in the schools by the run of the mill teacher or school leader? Why can't the experience of the violin teacher or the high level figure skating coach be brought to bear on the problems the schools face? Certainly it would be more inspiring than the current situation that teachers and administrators find themselves in...

Oh, and FMF, sorry about the tone of my response to you- you know I have nothing but respect for you and always enjoy our online encounters! I meant the response to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek chastizing, but realize today that it sounds a bit nasty. Sorry!



November 13, 2007 at 02:33 PM · Brian - Be happy you are a middle school violinist rather than a violist :) If you played viola you'd be getting picked on by other orch dorks for your instrument choice (like I was). ::::sigh:::: The light at the end of the tunnel will get larger (college violinist girls), and as others have mentioned you have a much better chance than the bullies for becoming sucessful in whatever field you choose to be in. The bullying and taunts are only temporary distractions. Music you will give you a life time of happiness, even if music does not end up being your career.

As far as my advice goes - try to get into a community orchestra. I joined a university orchestra at the age of 12 and shared a stand with a 40 year old gentleman. It was the best time I ever had. I learned how to deal with what you are going through now from my stand partner and made many friends that shared my interest (there were other kids my age in the orchestra as well). My parents got me into as many summer music camps as they could. It was great being around others that loved classical music as much as I did.

November 13, 2007 at 02:50 PM · Interesting argument going on between T and Howard. I have to add in a bit. The middle school at which I teach has a very strong anti-bullying policy and doesn't need extra monitoring.

When I got home yesterday, at the dinner table my wife brought up bullying out of the blue at the elementary school down the street at which my 5 year old goes. She had a problem with 1st grade boys throwing rocks at her. This expanded to a discussion that my wife had been having with the PTO people and on that our principal does not like to do anything if he doesn't have to and isn't pushed. Apparently parents input isn't listened to all that much--the principal takes a poll of teachers, and if they say there isn't a problem with bullying, he brushes it off. An anti-bullying program was offered to my daughter's elementary school, and the principal declined it. We live in an area that feeds many low achieving and low income students into our school, and poor behavior is indeed a problem.

Teachers don't like bullying, but yes many of them will allow it to go on if they also aren't checked and called on it.

T's actions were entirely appropriate and I would hope to have the courage to do the same.

November 13, 2007 at 03:29 PM · you know why howard...because the same approach can be viewed by some parents/kids as dedication/focus/hard work but by others as no fun/abuse/hard work:)

at least in the US, with a very diverse, heterogenous population, it is difficult, if not politically incorrect:), to line up everyone on the same queue, so to speak.

might as well because one may argue that the flip side of it is that the diversity of interests and approaches may help select individuals for individual situations to allow talent to blossom, be it violin or football.

on the other hand, what has happened to brian may always happen to him, no matter where he goes. it will seem that someone somehow will always manage to find a way to pick on him, not unlike how intellectuals look down at footballers for being a jock. it is the same thing. happens to everyone. just a matter whether you are on the giving or the receiving end. can't relate? just look at how you musicians slaughter other artists's interpreatation...i would think it hurts more than a kick on the case.

you learn not to care about things that do not matter to you if you truly know what matter to you. for brian, someone who loves yoyo in his spare time, this concept may have to be lived through.

someone kicked your violin case unless you are in a position to kick back, what options do you have? you move on. someone laughed at you for playing violin,,,tough, you move on. or, you can run to the principal's office every five minute to mount a complaint. later, run to your supervisor's office to complain with the hope that no one ever takes advantages of you. it does not work.

last year, a kid on my kid's school bus was behaving like a "bully", so the story went. my neighbor, a kinda in- your- face type of successful enterpreneur took things into this own hands. he boarded the bus and screamed and yelled at the "bully". then he proceeded to drive his little princess to school everyday from then on. that was his choice, his short term solution to "her" long term problem.

my wife disagreed with that approach because she thought that was not the right way to deal with the problem, because the problem was not dealt with, at least not from my kid's perspective. she sat down my kid and discussed with her ways to deal with a difficult person, how to negotiate, compromise, understand, share, acknowledge... it worked like a charm. it seems to be simpler and more efficient than going through the "system" or Gold's Gym.

i do not think learning martial arts/weight training will stop the bullying for brian. those bullies did not pick on him because of his lack of size/strength but his interest in geeky classical music. isn't the physical stuff what one would call a facade, or in violin lingo, a patina? :)

true confidence comes from deep convictions. that is why when being confronted by a wild animal in the woods, what matters more is not your size but your stare...

PS. how is this different from violin teachers bullying via verbal/physical abuse? :):):) ahh, in the name of art, it is different, grasshopper.

November 13, 2007 at 02:46 PM · Brian,

Let me second what Mendy said. When I was your age, my social life centered around the youth symphony friends I had. Later, my friends were folks I met at The Quartet Program and other summer programs. They were all so obviously on the ball and doing stuff, that I found the teasing I got at school to be simply stupid. The confidence I got from hanging out with really capable people kept me from being a target for the most part of those sorts of guys.

You could do martial arts like others have suggested. I'd suggest weight training too. Contrary to popular belief around here, if it's done right it won't affect your playing at all. Jsut be sure to get a good trainer at one of the local gyms. If you're in Bethesda, that shouldn't be a problem! Also, at your age, you'll bulk up quickly and become truly frightening (to them) in no time.

Good luck!

November 13, 2007 at 10:33 PM · Greetings,

al, I think you have misse dmy point when you said

>do not think learning martial arts/weight training will stop the bullying for brian. those bullies did not pick on him because of his lack of size/strength

FMF`s original point was that Brian`s `task` as it were is to recognize that what peopel say is irrelevent, it is how you react to it. I agreed with this but argue that it is actually quite hard to take an `its their problem not mine` attitude form a mentla perspective., It is a kind of life skill that teenagers are only just beginning to come to temrs with if it all.

The point about going to a good dojo is -very- perhipherally do to with the development of bulk or strength or even the knowledge that you can beat someone up. It is simply a question of -accelarating the speed thta you -recognize your own excellence- and therefore untouchability by others. That`s why I mentioned kendo which has , at the early stagesof training little value in fighting with anyone.



November 13, 2007 at 10:18 PM · Glad to be of help, Buri:-)

Thanks for your insights. It's good to get a balanced view. That's what we're all here for.

I just hope (and pray too!) that things will work out OK for Brian. I hope he does go on to become a very successful violinist and survives these years at middle school.

I'm a mom too, and can't help feeling protective towards a child.

I faced bullying too, for being different (of immigrant parents). It started when I was too young to know about all the options for asking for help, and my parents had severely limited language skills.

I think it's great that Brian has turned to v.commies for support. There are many knowledgable folks here whose information alone is empowering.

And it helps to get things in perspective. Bullies often behave the way they do because of jealousy. Because there's nothing else that's positive, or enriching to anyone that they can do in their lives. All they can do is stick in a pack and bully someone. Then if they're lucky, as many have said, they get to work in McD's or stacking supermarket shelves when they leave school.

Though it's tough, this is a brief period in life, and this environment is just a small group of people who, once you leave school you need never again see in your life. Unless you want to. There's a big world out there, and many, many gifted, intelligent, sensitive and giving people out there.

It's definitely worth seeking them out and living life to the full.


November 13, 2007 at 11:32 PM · buri, your point is well taken and please, you should know better how i feel about what your level of wisdom.

yet, what you are referring to and "martial art" in the US are about 3 universes away from each other.

i am not doubting your prescription, just what will be bottled:):)

November 14, 2007 at 12:24 AM · Greetings,

ypou are right of course al, apart form the cultural transfer finding a dojo or teacher taht works for you is not so easy. It`s kind of like finding the right violin teacher...



November 14, 2007 at 12:26 AM · Grasshopper say, "Like the gentle old tree that bends with the wind does not break, if the other tree casts it's hard shadow on you, tear out his heart and show it to him beating before he DIES!"

Worn, old joke #39.

November 14, 2007 at 01:10 AM · Personal responsibility. Buri read my mind - you missed the point. We are all ultimately responsible for ourselves and the time spent building ones inner control and confidence is where the benefit comes from with martial arts. Pursuing martial arts is only one suggestion for the underlying piece of advice. Build self control and confidence however you choose to and in the end you won't give a rat's patooti who picks on you and you will start to see the bullies in a different light. Paying it any mind (unless you are in danger) is a waste of time and energy. I am sure this is easier said when you are all grown up...

November 14, 2007 at 01:20 AM · I meant to add... yes, martial arts in US are completely different with the strip mall speed through the belt testing etc. but there are those devoted to the traditional teachings and take requirements very seriously. We happened upon such a dojo so they do exist.

November 14, 2007 at 01:24 AM · unfortunately i find myslef unable to grow up...

November 14, 2007 at 01:25 AM · Yo, you guys are awesome. As a matter of fact, I am in a youth symphony. I am a first violinist in the American Youth Philharmonic. It's a great orchestra. We just did a 2 hour concert with Pomp and Circumstance No 1, Symphony to Youth by Makris, (He actually wrote it for us), and Enescu's Rumanian Rhapsody no. 1. We also accompanied the great erhy player Xiaohui Ma in three pieces, the Shepherdess on Tianshan Mountain, Horse Race, and Spirit of my Erhu. Just a question, I will post one of these pieces of ours when I get the CD on the concerts section. What do you guys want up there? Pick any of the above. Oh, and thanks for all the help again.

November 14, 2007 at 02:15 AM · maybe i'm just feeling old.... I need to not be grown up.

November 14, 2007 at 02:16 AM · Dear Brian,

I would definitely look at attending a school of the arts. My son attends the North Carolina School of the Arts, a boarding school in Winston-Salem, NC. It is open to high school, college and graduate students from out of state, and in fact students from all over the world attend it. My son, who really never had a social group in middle school, has a wonderful group of friends there. His solo recital at school last year was attended by teachers, and college, graduate and high school students in arts ranging from dance to guitar and organ. It is an amazingly supportive and stimulating environment. The other advantage is that the arts teachers are top-notch and the orchestra, which is made up of high school and college/graduate students, is awesome. The conductor is Ransom Wilson, the renowned flutist. Another school that you might consider is Interlochen in Michigan. Both schools are expensive to out of state students, but do award scholarships to make attendance possible. There are also other, smaller boarding schools that emphasize the arts that you might consider.

Good luck!


November 14, 2007 at 02:38 AM · Hey Brian,

I played in the American Youth Symphony back when it was "the Northern Va Youth Symphony"! I think Louis Haza is still the conductor, right?

Post the Erhu piece!



November 14, 2007 at 04:07 AM · I went to Interlochen my junior and senior year of high school. I think the environment is unbeatable. Very intense all the time and I found the quality of academic teaching excellent. You cover an incredible amount of orchestral repertoire because the orch performs a new program every other week throughout the school year. Great teachers, great people... it is an experience that I would relive in a minute.

November 14, 2007 at 04:28 AM · Brian--it looks like you've gotten a lot of great advice.

What school do you attend? I used to live in Fairfax Station. Have you ever heard of Kevin Park?

November 14, 2007 at 05:48 AM · Definitely post the Erhu piece... my grandparents bought me an Erhu when they wen to China and I've been fascinated with that instrument ever since. Sweet!

P.S. If you haven't already, search for "Pachelbel Rant" on Hillarious!

November 14, 2007 at 07:41 PM · Brian, I think the most important thing in how others perceive you is how YOU feel about yourself. If you are proud of who you are, stand up tall and feel special( even if different from most kids your age), they'll eventually have the same kind of atitude towards you. My daughter is in 7th grade, and all her friends think she's a little weird because she won't hang out( no time) or because she has all classical music on her IPOD, but they think that with some sort of admiration- because she is soooo proud of who she is, is very self-confident. She's always been taking her violin with her to school, in elementary scool would go play for the principal, play at any possible occasion, and never felt embarassed because her interests were not mainstream. Since SHE thinks her violin is the coolest thing on earth, her schoolmates grew accustomed to this "weirdness" and respect it. For her, it all started in first grade when her music teacher asked her to perform( she was plying little tunes in Suzucki book 2, I think) for 4th graders who were just then starting instrumental music in school. For her, that was the most amazing self-esteem boost, because she felt unique, seing the admiration in the eyes of older kids. Luckily, that feeling never left her.

So, my advice would be to let it show how proud you are with your accomplishments, talk about the music you play, the orchestras, the competitions etc... whatever you do- with a LOT of importance, and you'll see that even people who don't like this kind of music, or understand it will be impressed.

Good luck, Michelle

November 14, 2007 at 08:19 PM · Hey Laura, of course I know Kevin! I don't personally, but I've heard him play-he's phenomenal. I attend Robinson Secondary School.

And Howard, Yes, Mr. Haza is still the conductor. He's awesome. Which erhu piece do you want?

November 14, 2007 at 08:30 PM · Hi Brian. Brian, I am terribly sorry to hear that you are having these problems. I know it's probably difficult, but I would try to be strong and ignore the unkind comments as much as possible. For me, it has always been true that my very best friends have always been in music - - the people who played in orchestras with me, etc. It is a wonderful thing to share a love of music. My friends and I were always right on the same wavelength. I feel very sorry for people who don't appreciate very beautiful music. Their lives really aren't as rich as ours are. And as for the unkind comments that you are receiving, I think those people really don't have much if any appreciation for classical music, which is sad, but everyone gets to make a choice as to what he/she likes in life. So Brian, try not to let these comments bother you. Just continue to work hard on your violin and love it and have fun with all of your friends who also love music. All the best to you, Brian.


November 14, 2007 at 08:37 PM · Hi Brian;

I'm new and am learning how to be a part of this Violinist comunity so forgive me if I transgress protocall.

Your strength are those who care and love you; family and friends. When the taunting starts think of all that have reached out from family and Journalize: What was done, 'WHO' did it, When (Date, Time Where: hall, room # so & so.) especialy any physical contact; If some one leaves a shoe print on anything use cell phone with camera, or dig. cam to take a picture; *Document anything physical*, vandalism, notes, foot prints on you or violin case from them kicking. Inform teachers, councilors, coaches etc.

Anything physical and verbal can be 'assult & battery' so legal authorities can help you so keep all concrete evidence, etc. How far will your parents and school go with solving this?

Your resources will base your options. Your options are backed by your strengths. Do Nothing or threat anything beyond your capabilities. Out of sight out of mind; Avoid where they congregate if possible such as territory, or certain times of day. If unavoidable, look at yourself for anything that gives you away like a jacket or cap and so remove those things, keep violin case low and hard to see in crowds (vanish) If they know you by certain things, cover, remove and wear something that is 'NOT' you, yet avoid drawing attention too you. Never be alone with them. Note anyone you know pressent when bullying starts and call them as a witness if need be. Have your school friends with you going to class if need be. Have class mates in your next class meet you close by, be in a group.

Any questions email me at or at my profile sight.

I'm one more cheering for you!

Royce Faina

November 14, 2007 at 08:40 PM · Hey Brian,

The advice from Michelle here is the best yet, even though, as a guy, you have a very different challenge in fitting in socially than her daughter does.

After going through very similar bullying from ages 8-16, here is what I can say about it:

1. You can lay awake at night trying to figure out how to get those jerks to stop picking on you. But those jerks stop thinking about you the minute you aren't right in front of them. In fact, you can spend the next ten years thinking about these guys and hating them and when you run into one of them ten years from now (and BTW they probably won't be working for McDonalds, as great as that is to think about, they'll be CEO's or teachers or cops) and you'll confront them about their behavior, they won't remember it as anything but goofing around and they'll seem to have become nice enough guys by then.

Don't wait until then to realize that all the time you spend worrying about the way they treat you is an enormous waste of time.

2. You can learn to kick some ass and maybe you can kick that guy from German class's ass-- maybe you break his nose with the end of your (cheap) violin case. But you will be the one who gets suspended or breaks your hand and will be haunted by the fallout from that one moment of victory for a long time. Not worth it.

3. You can tell. But, chances are, the same alpha male types that are picking on you are the ones that most of the teachers really secretly like and you will again feel the fallout.

4. You can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fit in. But, no matter how much your clothes and hair match the prevailing norm in your school, you won't fit into the male ruling class mode without changing or lying about who you are at the core of your being. Again, a huge waste of time.

So, be proud and stand tall. However, don't be egostistical or annoying. Don't talk about classical music to people who have no interest in it. You won't be able to convert them at this age anyway. Surround yourself with people who share your interests and don't be afraid to hang out with other "outcasts".

Be wary and silent when you are near these guys but let them slip from your mind the moment they are out of your sight. In the meantime, let your thoughts dwell on the things that really matter to you.

Above all, realize that trying to understand the key to social success in Junior High is pointless and a gigantic waste of time for people like us.

November 14, 2007 at 10:14 PM ·

November 16, 2007 at 04:57 AM · One more thing to think about from Reuters:

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Those hours practicing piano scales or singing with a choral group weren’t for nothing because people with a background in music tend to have a higher education and earn more, according to a new survey.

The poll by Harris Interactive, an independent research company, showed that 88 percent of people with a post-graduate education were involved in music while in school, and 83 percent of people earning $150,000 or more had a music education.

“Part of it is the discipline itself in learning music, it’s a rigorous discipline, and in an ensemble situation, there’s a great deal of working with others. Those types of skills stand you well in careers later in life,” said John Mahlmann, of the National Association for Music Education in Reston, Virginia, which assisted in the survey.

In addition to the practical skills gained from studying music, people questioned in the online poll said it also gave them a sense of personal fulfillment.

Students who found music to be extremely or very influential to their fulfillment were those who had vocal lessons and who played in a garage band. Nearly 80 percent of the 2,565 people who took part in the survey last month who were still involved in music felt the same way.

“That’s the beauty of music, that they can bring both hard work and enjoyment together, which doesn’t always happen elsewhere,” Mahlmann added in and interview.

November 16, 2007 at 05:47 AM · Um... all the poll did is show that people who are financially successful also have studied music a little. Notice it doesn't say what the participation in music was for the general population, nor what percentage of complete failures in life participated in music. It could very well be, for example, that 95 percent of jailed criminals played in their school band! One doesn't know...

So how does this guy John Mahlman say with such confidence that the music education that the "successful" group had caused in whole or in part the success of that group? Grrr... again, all the poll says is that this "successful" group also participated in music in percentages that may be more or less than the percentages of random groups of people or even complete failures in life.

If you think I'm wrong about this, consider this poll taken, I assure you, by a reputable research company last year-

"In a recent poll, virtually 100 percent of people with a post graduate degree and 99.9 percent of people making more than 150,000 dollars have used the toilet on a regular basis while they were in school. John Crapper of the Toilet Maker's Association pointed out that the routine, skills and discipline of using a toilet everyday stand people in good stead later in their careers. Crapper went on to explain the success of the group by saying that the confidence engendered by using the toilet probably transfers to the board room and other high-pressure situations."

Please... at best this was sloppy reporting on the part of the news organization that wrote the excerpt. At worst, the poll and the folks who sponsored it were deliberately obfuscating. Of course, education associations would NEVER stoop to that sort of behavior, right?

November 16, 2007 at 05:54 AM · Greetings,

your bizarre quote failed to acknowledge the role of prunes in entering the higher income bracket.



November 16, 2007 at 02:38 PM · Hey Buri,

Well, I guess you can make up a cause/effect relationship like they did in the poll that Mendy quoted!

Anyway, coincidentally, Emil and his wife are making me some prune soup later this evening.

Cheers from Washington,


November 17, 2007 at 04:29 AM · Prunes aside, I agree strongly with Howard.

Someone with a strong music backround probably had parents that cared about them and motivated them in many different ways.

Hence, they were also encouraged to read, do their homework, etc. Nothing too surprising with those statistics.

Those OTHER kids ended up working at 7-11, or becoming puppet presidents of the USA, or...

Wait, what was the question again?

November 17, 2007 at 02:16 PM · Thank you, Allan.

It's nice to know that SOMEONE appreciates me, even if Ice-T Net and Buri don't!

November 17, 2007 at 05:01 PM · Let's not detract from what this thread is about. Brian learning to cope with boys trying to prove De-evelution; De-evolving from humanbeings to Jack Asses and he catching smack from them. Hopefully noth of these Jack Asses will get high, drunk or both and decideds to get really stupid!

November 17, 2007 at 11:36 PM · I'm late to the party as usual. Everyone has given great advice. I agree with the martial arts idea, and I like the "Iron Man" idea--I think there are also versions of video game music you can learn "Halo" being one.

I am SO ANGRY to hear people call you a "violin playing chink." That is terrible.

You're a great kid with a fantastic talent. That makes people nervous and jealous. At least you know who your friends AREN'T, so you don't have to waste your time trying to please the wrong people. Please yourself and you'll attract the right kind of friends--the ones who will support and stand up for you. Until then, stand up for yourself and tell those bullies to knock it off. I wonder if your principal would allow you to store your violin in a secure location when you're not in orchestra class--it's a valuable instrument, and you certainly can't take a chance with it. If anyone purposefully harms your instrument, they can be held liable for the damages.

November 18, 2007 at 03:47 AM · I don't take it to school anymore except for concerts. But thanks everybody for your valuable comments! I use the Redskins line and everyone at my lunch table was impressed.

November 18, 2007 at 05:17 PM · I think that's great Brian. :) I'm glad your local NFL team could come to your aid. :)

Thanks for raising an interesting question. I suspect many of us gained something from it. One of these days all of these ideas we have shared about child-raising, public administration, ethics, criminal justice, religion, martial arts, power struggles, educational theories, politics, interpersonal comparisons of utility functions, sociology, psychology, norms, group-functioning, etc may make sense to you. Don't worry, I'm still waiting for it all to make sense to me too and I'm no longer in middle school!

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