A long time ago, Danny wanted to play the violin, just like Emily, Sam and Brian. They began Suzuki violin at 3.5 or 4 years old, progessed through their twinkles into their minuets, listened to their CD’s and went to lessons and group and institute. So when Danny turned four, his expectation was that he would do the same. The first problem was that Suzuki stidents play standing up. Well, when Danny was four, standing up was a problem, and standing up and holding a violin and a bow all at the same time was just not possible. But we worked around this obstacle and that problem and all, and Danny learned to play.
With tremendous support from teachers and therapists (and Danny’s own amazing determination) he made progess. Last year, right before he turned nine, he even started standing while he played (sometimes)… I have always been so proud of him, he just worked so hard. Getting his hand right for his bow hold, keeping his violin up in the right position, independently moving each of the fingers on his left hand takes HUGE amounts of effort and concentration for him. Meaanwhile, he’s working on the music.
Finally we realized something a few weeks ago. We were missing the point. A correct bow hold is essential to play well, but no musician says “What a wonderful concert! My bow hold was great the whole time!” What we wanted for Danny was to be able to say, ” I played the Bach Double with my brothers, and it was amazing”
We had gotten stuck conceptually, and meanwhile Danny was stuck musically. You can’t shift or have a good vibrato if you’re supporting the weight of your violin with your left hand. For five years, we had figured if he just kept trying harder, he’d be able to hold his violin up like everybody else. Guess what? Holding up your violin isn’t the point. Making music is the point.
It was amazing how freeing this change in concept was. Just like we use oxygen, and a G-tube, and braces for his legs, why not support his music with WHATEVER we needed to do mechanically, so that Danny could focus on art, not his CP? So we talked to his physical therapist, his occupational therapist, the guy who makes his braces, and came up with a plan. Actually, several plans, in order, to make prototypes and try.
So right now we have a two piece polymer thing on his bow that allows him to use his more functional larger muscles to grip the bow, while maintaining the right position. And we have a work-in-progress contraption under his shoulder rest, made out of Christmas ribbon, duct tape and binder clips to take some of the weight of his violin off his left hand to allow him to shift.
At his lessons, and praticing, it’s obviously a huge improvement. But we know it’s a work in progess. So when Elizabeth Foss offered to stay a day longer than Ginny and Ann to help me with whatever projects I needed a little help with, I instantly realized that she’d be the perfect fresh pair of eyes to look at this situation. So today Danny had the chance to participate in a Suzuki Solo Celebration – a group class with a master teacher and a solo evaluation before an experienced adjudicator.
We noticed lots of things. See the photo above? Every other child, when not playing, puts their violin in “rest position” but Danny’s is stuck. Not optimal.
Meanwhile, his violin kept popping off his shoulder rest, which was stuck to his chest. See the blue painters tape? A quick trip to the hardware store fixed the popping off problem, but compounded the stuck problem.
It’s all quite stressful for Danny, I think… all these “try this” and “adjust that” … when he wants to focus on his music. He wasn’t happy with how he played for the judge. Thank goodness for chess friends who are also violin friends to take his mind off all this tape for a while….
So why am I boring you with all this after not posting for 5 months? Because I really, really want you to click on a link and read the article AND watch the video. (at the end of this paragraph) Right in the middle of all of this, after we had decided that mechanical help would be a blessing, not cheating, Esther sent this to me, and Danny and his teacher and I were amazed. We have talked to so many people over the years, Suzuki professionals who teach all over, music professors, therapists… and they have all helped Danny. But after watching this video, I think there really might be the perfect SOMETHING out there for him. Elizabeth Foss and I brainstormed some ideas to try meanwhile, but after you watch the video, if you know Danny, tell me what you think. Can’t you just see this guy, in this video, knowing just the right solution for our son? And isn’t it a miracle that Esther found this video to inspire and encourage Danny right in the middle of this transition? I am seriously thinking of finding his email and sending him a picture of Danny and our Christmas ribbon/binder clips/painters tape device, and asking him to guide us.
!!!! here is the link, finally!!!!
Please click, and watch this amazing video. Maybe we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I just might track down his email and see what he would suggest for our Danny.
ADDED 6:45 PM – A friend sent me a link to Mr. Anantawan’s website, and submitted an email with a link to this post. I promise to let you know if he responds. http://www.adriananantawan.com/