Tiger Violin

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…

11 thoughts on “Tiger Violin

  1. I agree with you; music is a means to character building. It’s about the music, but it’s about so much more. And the book isn’t as awful as the excerpts made it out to be.

  2. I just finished reading Tiger Mom, and although I think she went too far in some cases (renting piano time even when they were on vacations), I respect and support her decision to set the bar very high and teach her children what it is to work very hard and experience the fruits of their labor. I also respect Tiger Mom for getting down in the trenches and making huge sacrifices in every area of her life in order to teach and guide her girls through the work. I have no doubt, that because of the character built in them through violin and piano, those girls will do an amazing job wherever their lives may lead them.

  3. I agree that it’s not about which instrument they play, it’s that they apply themselves diligently to something that is going to be WORK. Over an extended period of time. We are now at the place with 3 of our kids that piano practice isn’t work any more, it’s just ‘I’m going to go sit down and practice.’ The other 3? Not so much. But out of that I have 2 music majors in college, and another that has the ability to tackle anything he feels like playing. And I hope it has taught them something about diligence!

  4. Even (or maybe especially) “TUI” you are very entertaining, Elizabeth! 😉

    We all have our Tiger-mama issues, even if they are not music education. I’m going to think about what you’ve said this week, however, when I tell my son to go practice on his drums!

    The boys look very bright and springy– very handsome!

  5. Beautiful photos of two dapper and spiffy young men! The words along with the photos were good too, even though you were impaired…tee hee!

    Thank you for sharing and thank you too for letting those of us in the North see that spring is headed this way.

  6. I haven’t read the book, but I have read some posts about it. I also have a B.A (Hons) in music. I can tell you, that no one in my university class was forced to sit at the piano for hours, without food or bathroom breaks (as I have read is either what the author did, or the woman writing the post, it was hard to know who was who since I hadn’t read the book). Then, there’s the backlash and anger if the child doesn’t get first place that just made my heart so sad. She rejects a handmade birthday card from her daughter because it’s not “good enough”?
    I totally agree that intense dedication to an area of interest can be great. But when you tell your child “I’m not coming to your assemblies unless you’re the highest student because otherwise I’m embarrased”? It’s just too sad for me.
    I am in awe of the musical abilities of your children…I didn’t start playing a band instrument until grade 7 though and I think I turned out fine. I wish I could memorize music though, however, I think that has more to do with my general brain abilities than when I started music, LOL.

  7. They look so handsome and grown up! How did that happen so fast?? I know that you are proud, and I am, too.

  8. I certainly agree that an intensive study of an instrument, or anything really, can be a wonderful, character-building experience as you have noted. And setting the bar high and encouraging excellence in our children is all fine and good. But I don’t think any one of your readers here believe for a second that you, dear Elizabeth, could be ‘Tiger’ anything – screaming and ‘yelling until you lost your voice’ at a seven year old or calling a child ‘garbage’. (I haven’t read the book – those examples are from her WSJ article) You might feel tempted to defend Tiger’s intentions and efforts, but her methods – I think not a chance. 🙂 xo

  9. I have heard about the book, but haven’t read it yet. It is on my list of books I want to read when I get a chance.

    I LOVE to see pictures of your children enjoying their violin. That is awesome that they are playing in different ensembles now and continuing to grow in their music. I am so very proud of them. They are both very handsome boys!

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