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Take only what you need from it

April 29, 2013

Yesterday was our church’s spring concert. The Organist asked me if I’d play a solo, but as I’m really much happier soloing from the choir loft than in front of people and I’m happier playing with others than either of those things, I asked two of my fellow toymakers to join me. The three of us are working up a short lecture/recital that we’ll perform at the office next month. But we thought we’d try one of the pieces out on the road, in part because we’d get to play it with an organ instead of a piano, which is much more idiomatic for early Baroque music.

As I am discovering is usual, no one had any idea what was on the program until we walked into the church. It turned out that in addition to us and the choir, all of The Organist’s piano students were playing too. It turned out to be a wonderful mix of adults and children playing together and I realized how rare that is.

It was a beautiful day and the church doors were open to the street to let the fresh air in. My fellow violinist and I played with our organist friend to open the program and were’ playing again with the piano and choir at the end. The piano, however, was tuned about a half step higher than the organ, so we opted to walk outside on the sidewalk to retune before the second part of our gig. While we were standing out there with our violins, a small girl came up to me, right up close, staring at me and my instrument.

“Hi,” I said.

“What’s that?” she said, pointing at the violin, her mouth still hanging open.

“It’s a violin.” I played a few notes for her. She stuck out her hands like she wanted to hold it. “Do you want to try it?” I looked at her mother, standing back a little, to make sure it was okay. I got a nod.

The little girl nodded vigorously. I stooped behind her to help her hold it under her chin (it was far too big for her to hold herself — she was 3 or 4) and showed her how to hold the bow and pull it on the strings. Her whole face lit up when she made a sound. We played for a minute and then she was done. She handed it back and grabbed her mothers hand and skipped away, shouting over her shoulder, “I’m going to take lessons.”

One of my failings as a violin teacher is that I don’t really like to perform very much. I like to play. I’ve always thought that the performance requirement is something you need to help your students to get through their own performances and to keep your own skills up. But really, part of it is solid evangelism. Kids won’t know they want to try it until they see it.

* * * * *

Last night, AJ and I went to the park after dinner to squeeze in a quick game of Frisbee before dark. The wind was kicking up and we were both throwing badly, so badly that we were laughing a lot. As we threw back and forth into the wind, a small boy appeared at the side of the field. His family was on the paved area by the bandshell, watching his older siblings roller skate and ride their scooters. They boy was very attentive, moving with us each time we threw the Frisbee, and jumping up and down with excitement. We asked if he’d like to join us and he ran onto the field. I tossed him a Frisbee and it sailed over his head. He grinned and ran after it, winding himself up like a discus thrower to toss it to AJ. We played until his parents urged him to tell us thank you. We all waved at each other and he went home.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2013 7:25 am

    Performing is like writing; I only like it after I’m done!

  2. April 29, 2013 7:51 pm

    This reminds me of the blog post you wrote about having to see it to be it (I am garbling what you actually said, which was far more descriptive and lyric). But yes, for that little girl, the seeing and the doing were magic. Isn’t that what teaching music is about?

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