Somewhere in my heart is a brilliant post defending Tiger mama for her valiant efforts to absolutely ensure that her children get every possible benefit from a rigorous musical education. But I worry if I posted it, I would have no more friends left. I need my friends more than I need to defend a book I haven’t even actually read.
Brian and Danny had a chamber concert today. The violinists and the cellists ranged in age from 6 to 18, and all of them. 100 %, you could see in their faces that they were happy to be sharing their music. Danny was a little nervous, though. Not about his music, but about falling. Until very recently, he has played sitting down in a special chair, but now he stands up to play like all the other kids… and this means he also walks and carried his violin and bow by himself. This makes ME nervous. I had visions all yesterday of him walking up the steps to the stage, carrying his instrument in his left hand and using his right hand to push himself up each step… then dropping his violin and falling on it and being really, really upset.
But that’s not what happened. He had his first wipeout in the parking lot and banged up his knee and got a huge grease stain on his pants. One of the teachers had advice that he listened to: Your audience will see what is biggest, so your smile needs to be bigger than the black marks, then all will be fine. Then he was blessed to run into another violin mama who told his he looked quite dapper. He’d never heard the term dapper before (he had been asking us if he looked spiffy 🙂 , so that got his mind off his troubles until things got started.
Brian wasn’t nervous. He’s been playing since he was four, and recently has had quite a bit of ensemble experience, so things looked good. There are advantages to being a vigilant, diligent, OCD kind of a guy. You usually have your music memorized well ahead of time and have scheduled as many extra practice sessions with your group as possible. When you know you’ve got it perfected AND you have two entire sets of Dominant strings AND an extra bridge AND your back -up bow all in your case at your side, what is there to be worried about?
But back to Tiger Mama. Have you read her book? Music, and music practice play a large role in it. The vast majority of the moms chatting before the concert started today were VERY pro-Tiger. They were the ones whose kids were two feet shorter than Brian playing at the same level as Sam 🙂 My problem is that as much as I want to distance myself from that parenting philosophy, I can’t, at least not 100 %.
There are huge things to be gained from long term, intensive work in a single area, even if there are days (or months) that the child doesn’t exactly feel like participating. At that point, music education actually becomes a character building tool. If my child won’t practice, just because he doesn’t want to, and then goes ahead to disobey me when I tell him to practice, or even lies about practicing when he didn’t actually do his whole lesson, all of a sudden we have a major need for communication, teaching, paternal involvement, etc. Violin is no longer the point. Violin is the means to wage the battle for our child’s self-discipline and character development.
Don’t get the wrong idea… violin is hardly ever like that around here, or “I” would have quit ages ago. But it certainly alternates, often, between being a means or an end, KWIM?
More on Tiger mama thoughts when I’m not just two hours into tonight’s chemotherapy. Probably shouldn’t be posting at all, given the vast quantities of chemicals in my brain. PWI? Posting while impaired? TUI? Typing under the influence? Whichever, I’m going to sleep, and will have wonderful dreams of vivaldi concerti and bach doubles…