Two things are true about playing violin:
- It is hard
- It is easy
Yes, violin is a difficult instrument to learn how to play. It takes a tremendous amount of patience, energy, and time. The rewards may not always seem obvious, the goals may not always seem attainable. Instant gratification? Nope! You need to work hard.
However, playing the violin IS easy. All you have to do is take one little step at a time, listen carefully to what your teacher is saying, and practice every day. Sometimes we violinists get so wrapped up in the quest for mastery and beauty that we forget to be proud of what we have already accomplished. We also forget how the heck we got here in the first place. What did we do? We committed to this instrument, we listened to our teachers and parents, we practiced often and we practiced what we were supposed to practice, and we never quit. Despite all the setbacks, all the frustrations and doubt, we are now here, playing beautiful music on the violin.
Let’s just be real — in this world it is HARD to commit to practicing the violin every day. It’s hard for me personally to take the time out of my extremely busy day to practice. I have felt guilt, at times – wondering if there was something “more important” or “more practical” I should be doing. I’ve had to learn to set guilt, fears, and doubt aside, and focus on my commitment to the violin. I have to reassure myself often that my violin journey is an important, vital part of my life and that I must work at it every single day.
I’ve found the same is true with teaching my own children. Establishing a daily practice time can be very difficult, but it is also the most important. It may need to change as the child grows or their schedule changes. It may need to change because you notice they are more alert in the morning than they are in the evening. When are they the most receptive to playing violin? For one of my children it has been better to be more flexible, but for the other, I’ve found that establishing a specific time for practice every day is better. Just like anything else with children, we must figure out what works best for each child.
Then STICK TO IT.
Paula Bird, an amazing violin teacher and wonderful human being, was just talking on her podcast, “How Big is your Why” about the question of WHY we are doing this. WHY do I teach violin? WHY the Suzuki method? Check out her amazing podcasts here.
Her podcast got me thinking. In today’s world, it is really easy to think of violin as just another activity for your children to do – learning an instrument is an opportunity they shouldn’t miss out on. But as Suzuki teachers and parents we are doing so much more than that. The WHY behind what I do, personally, is because I believe as Pablo Casals said, that it might just be music that saves the world.
I have a very strong belief in the power of music and the benefits of learning an instrument. Together, we are making the world a better place – one child, one family, one community at a time. Brodhead doesn’t offer an orchestra program in their schools. This makes it even more important that children have opportunities to learn a stringed instrument here.
One of the goals I have for my studio is to create a safe space of non-judgement, where students can learn and grow not only as musicians but as sensitive, kind citizens of the world. Dr. Suzuki said, “Beautiful tone, beautiful heart.” I just hung up a poster with these words in my studio. I can attest to the truth in this statement. In all of the years I have played violin, I could never manage to sound beautiful when I was in a negative place in my head or heart.
So playing violin is more about just learning the instrument, it’s about our growth as individuals. This is an important journey. Why start the journey? Why continue on the journey? What is the point? Why does it matter so much?
To borrow a common parenting phrase, playing the violin isn’t a distraction from the hard work, it IS the hard work. Playing the violin creates an atmosphere of love, beauty, and magic in your home. It makes a statement that, “Yes! This is important!”. Music benefits our brains, our bodies, our hearts, and our souls. Music teaches life lessons in a positive and subtle, yet powerful way. It takes GRIT and determination to set goals and practice daily. It takes persistence and faith to know you can do it and TRY. Being part of something greater than yourself — the global violin and Suzuki community — is a life-changing experience that is guaranteed to change you for the better, for LIFE.
My personal mission is to share my love of violin and classical music with as many children as possible. Making lessons fun. The joys of accomplishment. Helping my students grow as musicians and people. Creating a positive atmosphere of learning and beauty, not competition and judgement. Nurturing faith in ourselves and our abilities. And much more that I cannot begin to articulate at this moment. I only know one thing for certain – every child can play violin, and they are better for it.
Yes, it is hard, but it also easy.