Wylie has chosen the song she will play for her violin recital in a few weeks, and she feels so incredibly proud that her teacher agreed she was ready to perform it. At the beginning of her lesson, her teacher Carlough asked Wylie, “Did you know that this song is actually a story about a coronation? Do you know what a coronation is?” Once Wylie understood what a coronation was, and what this song was really communicating, her neck elongated, her back stretched up, and she gently twirled around in this tiny music studio, as she placed her violin on her shoulder. Carlough created a magical space for Wylie to imagine the world she was going to be creating for her audience.
Wylie started playing violin at the age of four. Dr. Suzuki believed that children this young really can learn to play in meaningful ways through a partnership with between the parent, the musician, and the teacher. I’ve never played an instrument in my life. I mean, I like to sing, but note reading was not something I ever had to be very good at. My a capella group in college– we just figured everything out by ear. So I knew that starting violin with my daughter was not going to be easy. But I trusted the process. I trusted in the Suzuki method, and with her older sibling an accomplished cello player, wanted to offer her the same opportunity.
But this Suzuki approach is intense… both for the child and the parent. You don’t just tell your child to go practice their instrument and then walk away. I have found myself talking to non-suzuki people about Wylie’s violin practice, and I’ll refer to it as “our practice.” More than once I’ve had to explain that I am not playing the violin, but I am an essential element of the practice. Practicing in the suzuki method is a partnership. And as in any partnership, it has its challenges and deep joy… sometimes all in one twenty minute practice session!
The last time Wylie was getting ready for a performance, her first performance with Carlough, she was getting very nervous. I encouraged her to talk with Carlough about this because though we’ve only known each other for a few months, I had a feeling she would have something to say about this nervousness that would help. She didn’t fail me. Pulling in close, face to face, Carlough asked, “Wylie do you know why we perform music?”
With pride and with certainty, Wylie replied, “So we can show our best work!”
With a warm smile, Carlough shook her head. “No Wylie, that’s actually not really the reason. We perform our music so that we can touch people’s hearts.”
A tear rolled down my cheek as a smile spread across Wylie’s face. She knew instantly what Carlough meant. Carlough continued, “There’s no perfect way to do that, right?” Wylie nodded vigorously and they continued into their lesson. Now, Wylie regularly refers to touching people’s hearts with her music. She sometimes asks me during our practices if she has touched my heart. Who could say no to that?
There is something so beautiful and magical in the world that gets created between my daughter and me around her music making. There are intense feelings– me getting incredibly frustrated that she won’t persevere. Her refusing to pick up the violin. Needing to be in control of everything. Pushing the edge of everything I suggest. And then there are those moments when she gets something she didn’t get before. And I get to be a part of that. I get to be there for the moment when she asks to see the music so she can find the spot that had been so hard but she figured out, and then put a heart around. I get to be there… not just as an audience member, but really as a participant… when she stands on stage and touches the hearts of a room full of people.