Friday, July 30, 2010

The Violin

Once upon a time there was a little brown-haired girl who loved music. Her father loved music, too, so he was delighted when she chose to begin playing the violin when she was seven years old. She took lessons at school with her best friend, who played the cello. Every time she put that shiny brown instrument under her chin and swept her braids to the side, she had a feeling of intense happiness. It was quite appropriate that the first classical piece she learned to play was "Ode to Joy."

The little girl practiced diligently. She took great care to polish her violin and never let it get scratched or damaged. She'd stand in her bedroom playing songs over and over in front of her shiny silver music stand until she played them just perfectly. Then she'd skip to the living room to perform a little recital for her proud and adoring father.

At her first concert, she was nervous. She was a quiet, shy little girl who didn't like being in the spotlight, but she donned her beautiful violet crushed velvet dress, fixed the ribbons in her braids just so, and went on stage with the rest of the third grade orchestra and played every song as flawlessly as she could. The lights were hot and blinding. Her heart was pounding. But when she was playing, she soared to a different place in her mind, lifted to new heights by the music.

After the concert, her beaming father came up to her dressed in his Sunday best brown suit, complete with his special Mallard duck cuff links, and presented her with a little box. Inside was an exquisite golden pin... a tiny replica of a violin. He pinned it to her dress as her mother watched. It was a moment she would never forget.

The little brown-haired girl kept playing the violin through third, fourth, and fifth grade. Every concert was a joy; every lesson a blessing. Her music was part of her now; when she could not find her voice to express her emotions, she often was able to express everything in song. And her playing strengthened the bond between her and her father. He loved music. He was so proud.

Sixth grade came, and the shy little girl went to middle school. Her darling braids were replaced by a boyish bob; her confidence was waning. She was not popular and didn't feel like she really fit in. But she still played in the orchestra with her best friend.

Early in the year, she was given a little card on which to record her practice hours. She was pretty busy with her religious zealot mother, going to more than five hours of church meetings each week and spending her weekends out knocking on doors selling religious magazines and preaching to the poor lost souls who didn't have the Truth. Her violin practice suffered; instead of the required five hours per week, she only practiced for two. And her orchestra teacher was very unhappy with that. One day at school, he called her to the front of the class. "Why aren't you practicing more?" he demanded. She quietly explained. "Well," he said, "I want you to practice the full five hours this week. And if you do, I will give you ten dollars! Deal?" "Deal," she replied.

She made every effort that week to get in the full five hours of practice... and she succeeded. She set aside her playtime, skipped her favorite TV shows, and made sure she got that five hours of practice in. She recorded it all on the little card and had her parents sign it. Her teacher would be so pleased! Beaming, she brought it to class the next week. She proudly walked up to her teacher in front of the class and handed him her card, waiting for lavish praise. "Oh!" her teacher snarled, "I see it is NOT so impossible for you to practice five hours AFTER all! You'll do it for TEN DOLLARS but you won't do it for YOURSELF?" He shook his head and gave her a look of contempt and disgust. "Just shameful... shameful! Now sit down!" The shy girl hung her head, went back to her seat, and tried to hide her tears. She didn't even care that he did not give her the ten dollars. It was the first time in her short life that she actually hated herself.

Not long after, the teacher passed out the music for the next concert. It would be a Christmas concert, with traditional Christmas music. The shy girl looked at the sheet music, gathered it in her hands, and timidly approached her teacher after class, head hung low. "I am not allowed to play this music," she quietly said. "I don't celebrate Christmas." "Well if you won't play the assigned music," he declared, "then there is no use for you in my orchestra!" She went home in tears, laid on her bed next to her shiny violin, and wept bitterly.

She never played again. Kicked out of orchestra, she tried to forget her music. The beloved instrument was placed in its red velvet lined case and stuck in the back of her closet. And the little girl grew up.

When she was 18 and moved out, she didn't take the violin with her. And when she went back for it a year later, her mother had "gotten rid of it."

Years later when she was 20, she had a stepson who played the viola. One day when he was in the barn doing his chores, she walked into his room to get his clothes to wash. There, on his bed, was his instrument. She picked up the shiny brown viola and placed it under her chin. All the feelings and memories came flooding back as she placed her fingers on the strings and drew the bow across them, flawlessly playing Ode to Joy.

I have not played a violin in many decades, and my stepson's viola went back to the school we rented it from after he quit playing. Something in me still feels the loss of that music, and part of me has toyed with picking up a violin again and trying to play.

The other day, my daughter asked me if she could play the violin when she is old enough in school. Of course I said yes. I hope when she is old enough she finds that joy in music I once shared with my father. And perhaps yet another small part of me will heal through the music.

38 comments:

NewMe said...

Your story is almost too painful to read. I can't imagine how you managed to write it. I am so glad that you have the opportunity to write it again through your daughter, but why don't you pick up the violin again too? It's never to late to make beautiful music.

Laura said...

This made me so sad to read. There are few things I find more pleasure in, than music. I'm so sorry you were forced to stop, and I really hope that if you're ever able, you'll pick up a violin again, and be joyful. :)

Julie said...

Very powerful post! I hope these memories help you to heal!

Mrs. Thighs said...

What a bittersweet post. I'm a musician myself, so I understand the joy of music, and I really think that you should start playing again. It's always nice to have a passion, even if you can only enjoy it for a couple of hours each week.

Glenn, Fat at Fifty-five said...

Well, the good part of this story is that you're not a little girl anymore. You're the one in charge of your dreams. If you want to play, then play. :)

-J.Darling said...

I see what the instructor was trying to do, but that obviously didn't work for you.

I have a violin and have picked it up and understand your passion. I sing and songwriter and often put it on the back burner because it's not what makes me money. Yet I do what doesn't make me happy - for money.

Do what is fulfilling. Pick up the instrument again.

This time, the only thing stopping you, is a hurt little girl. Isn't it time she got to play again? (Instruments are inexpensive at Walmart).

Lanie Painie said...

The story pissed me off. That BASTARD. Why didn't your parents go and fight for your right to be in that orchestra? It was their job to stick up for you and if she was such a religious zealot, she should've had no problem sticking up for your rights not to be pushed into doing something against your religion. I just hate that and it STILL happens in public and private schools all-the-time, especially in music programs. There is plenty of beautiful music available without choosing religious-themed music. When I hear stories like that I wonder if we are really living in America at all or if it is just some flag we wave so they can push us around.

I agree with Glenn above. Please start saving for the voilin replacement as soon as you are able. Think of it as an alternative to bingeing on food. My guess is eating replaced your art and now the music is trying to make its way back into your life.

Lyn said...

Lanie~

Sadly, my mother never once stood up for me. Not when I got F's for refusing to do Christmas art projects in art class, not when I got spanked with a wooden paddle by a teacher for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance. My mother handed me a Bible in first grade and told me that I should take it to school and defend my religion myself. She never once stood up for me.

And I agree... there is no reason to exclude someone based on their religious beliefs!

Lyn said...

Oh... and yes, I have been seriously considering getting a violin and bringing back something I love!

Melissa said...

Aw, this story made me so sad!! There is always someone around to squelch the love of music inside of a musician. My husband plays the keyboard & he definitely faced situations like this. He went to a piano school as a child & was kicked out, they said he was tone deaf! His old piano teacher actually tells her students that story now, as inspiration, b/c he is SOOO GOOD now! HAHA! And later on, playing in churches, there was always someone to squelch how he really wanted to play...

This made me so mad at your teacher! HOW AWFUL! How judgemental of the teacher, having no clue what you were going through at home. And even if you didn't have the religious zealot mom, 5 hours is a lot to ask of kids when they have homework, after school activities, etc!

I hope you do pick up the voilin again!!

Winner at a Losing Game said...

Lyn, you have many gifts, not the least of which is writing. I suspect that there is quite a talented and gifted person inside you. Don't wait too long to start living your dreams. It is never too late, we have only one life to live. I am so sorry that someone took so much from you. That "teacher" and "mother" of yours really sucked. We just need to remember in our daily interactions that we have great impact upon people. Very moving accounting.

Pubsgal said...

It sounds like you've uncovered another layer, Lyn. Don't wait for your daughter to play, heal *yourself* through making beautiful music again! And it might be something you can enjoy together, just like you and your father did.

septembergrrrl said...

Tears here. So sad. I am awestruck, yet again, that a child faced with so many hurtful adults on her path could grow to be such a wise and caring woman. You are amazing.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why you wrote almost all of this post in the 3rd person. Whatever your reason(s) for doing so, those reasons might help you discover more about your inner self.

It's okay to grieve, to feel angry at careless hurtful people, to let yourself be sad for everything and everyone you have lost. Healing often hurts.

Anonymous said...

So, really...get yourself another violin. Check out ebay, Craigslist...even if you must start with an instrument that isn't the best, if you have that passion and talent, get a violin.

I play guitar. I'm the only woman playing about 6 weekends a year in a fun, and getting quite well known cover band in my area...it's my fun, my stress relief, my friend. I didn't start playing until I was 43, and now I can keep up and have a blast doing it. It's a much better workout than you might think. I bought my first guitar on ebay, the next 3 all different places. Life is short, playtime is important.

You have come so far, don't let this life play you the victim, grab what it takes to fill your heart with passion!

Audrey said...

Lyn,

I have been reading your blog for almost a year now and this is my first comment. This post is very moving and quite powerful. As painful as it is to see how such a joy was ripped from you as a child (and sharing it with your father), I hope that you can find healing by GIVING that joy to your daughter by being there for her unlike your mother was for you.

grace and peace for the road. don't we all need it...

~K said...

This story touched me. We are often made to put aside things that bring us joy because of so many different reasons. I sincerely hope that you can bring the joy of making music back into your life. I find such inspiration in your writings on your weight loss journey, which is really about so much more that just weight loss, isn't it?

Bobbie said...

Lyn, I too am so moved by your story and your experiences. I am a Christian that gets so angry over the religious garbage that some people force on others. I don't condone what your mother did, but as a mother who was religious for awhile (because I thought that is what I was supposed to do), I can understand that maybe she was only doing what she thought was best for her family, wanting you to "make" it. But God desires a relationship, not religious bondage. And it took me awhile to find that, and I found it through God' son, Jesus.
Now the second thing I want to say is that I am 55 and all my life I was told that my brothers were the only ones with musical abilities, we girls did not possess this ability. Well, about 8 years ago I learned how to play the standup bass and now I belong to a bluegrass band that is becoming pretty well known in NW ARkansas, NE OK, and parts of Missouri. I am having a blast and had I continued to listen to the "voices of the past", I would be missing out on some of the best times of my life. So play, girlfriend, play.

M said...

Your story brought tears, as I am a 5th grade Orchestra teacher. I'm SO sorry your teacher took that approach with you. That is no longer in any way acceptable. I make arrangements for my students.
I'm really excited for the opportunity for your daughter one day! Music is a wonderful thing!

Baby Stepper said...

The more I read your blog, the more I find we have in common. This was such a touching post and it really hit a chord (no pun intended) in me.
Hugs
The Baby Stepper

Michele said...

John Holt wrote a wonderful book called: It's Never Too Late. He took up the cello as a 40 something year old. As an adult learner on a stringed instrument myself, I too know that it can be done. Give yourself the gift of playing music. It will lighten and brighten your life and will be something that you will never regret.

Andrea said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing! It such a shame that teachers sometimes make judgements of kid's behaviour without knowing what is going on at home! I'm glad that light lives in on in your daughter and am sure you will have that joy again through her!

Lynna said...

When I was 12, I used to go hide in a cubbyhole under the stairs where I had a crafting area. It was heaven.

I'm revisiting that childhood passion by creating a "studio" in a spare bedroom, and I'm having a BLAST.

There's something about our childhood passions that once revisited really feed the soul. Can't wait to read about your new violin. (You ARE getting a violin! :o )

losing.it.mjh said...

As a musician and a music teacher, I really feel this story! So sad! You should DEFINITELY play again!

Unlike many others, I completely see where the director was coming from. That doesn't mean that it's right. As teachers, we need to remember that we don't know what's happening at home or what kind of life our students have.

We each have to prioritize our lives as only we see fit. Home practice is like eating right or weight-training for athletes. If I want to be in an ensemble, I know I can only do it if I have the time neccessary for practicing at home. But I ALSO do not think that there is a set amount of hours that prepares you. If you can play the music, then you should be fine. In my opinion, the instructor could have given you a playing test if you didn't "make your hours," but that takes extra time, and so often public educators have more to teach than hours to teach it...Sadly, public education is most often education of the majority...

So much of the world's greatest music has been imagined/created for a religious purpose. Music educators in public schools fight every year for the ability to teach these basic pieces in their classrooms. Many of these pieces, even Beethoven's Ode to Joy, are perfect for teaching music essentials. I had two friends who could not perform religious or holiday-themed music. They stood with the group and didn't sing these pieces, and the director did her best to include at least one piece that the students could perform. As a teacher myself, I had a student who could not participate if there was religious, patriotic, or holiday-themed material going on in class. Other teachers had this student read during the class time. I created alternate lesson plans for that student on those days, usually something to do with listening so that the student would not be exposed to what the rest of the class was doing because I DO understand the importance of it all.

But some part of me still says that if the public school system can see the gray area of teaching religious songs in school why can these religious groups not see the gray area of learning this holiday-themed music from a cultural/historical viewpoint perhaps?

I live a sheltered life, I suppose...

Bonnie said...

Oh Lyn, be good to yourself, go to a pawn shop and buy a violin for yourself! Bring back the joy of playing and do it for you!

Pawsitive Start said...

It's never to late to do something you love.
http://pawsitivestart.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

When your daughter is old enough to study music at school I hope her school can afford a music program. That would not be the case here.

So why wait? Get violins for both of you, and start studying again together!

I just noticed your response above!
You're an awesome example for your family in so many ways!
Marie

Hanlie said...

I've said this before - you should write a book! Music fills the soul, so you should absolutely start playing again!

Anonymous said...

My daughter had a classmate that was not allowed to celebrate holidays so the whole class was punished along with her, no xmass, no valentines, no halloween. We had her for three years in a row. It really sucked the fun out of holidays. We were glad when that was over. What ever happened to learning about other peoples holidays?

McCulley's said...

I shed a tear for you I think you should pick it up again and heal through you!

spunkysuzi said...

What a nasty thing to do to a child!!
I hope you do get a violin and join your daughter in practice. You have come so far and the love you show your children shines through.

screwdestiny said...

I loved this story, Lyn. You should start playing again. It's rare to find something in life that makes you so happy, so easily. And it's something that you could still do! So I hope that you'll choose to make beautiful music again.

CathyB said...

Wow. What a powerful story. I agree with everyone else. Pick up the violin and soothe your hurts away as the bow caresses the strings. It will be good for your soul.

Just discovered your blog, added it to my blog list. Check out my X-(banded)Files blog. I had a lap band for nine weeks, then had to have it removed because of complications. Now I'm looking for inspiring blogs of non-banded "losers", and I have already been inspired by yours. Can't wait to read all the older posts!
CathyB From Ga

Julie said...

get another violin. seriously. now.

Stephanie said...

Lyn, I've been really thinking about this post. The behavior of your teacher was way beyond inappropriate. Today that teacher would be fired for religious discrimination. But that doesn't change the fact that you are still pained by what happened to you. You think violin music was something taken away from you. And while it was when you were a child, the only thing keeping it away from you now is you. It's time for you to stand up and take back all of those things you were deprived of as a child. Celebrate Christmas every month if you need to until your soul feels healed. It's not enough to understand why we're hurt or broken. We have to fix it. Sending you much love.

Amanda said...

This post is just devastating. And sadly, it sounds a great deal like my old orchestra teacher.

He was one of those charismatically abusive types, whose students spent their time anxiously attempting to gain his approval and desperately trying to avoid his scorn.

Both goals were infrequently achieved.

He hasn't improved with age. Oh he's mellowed somewhat from what I heard. He had children himself, he learned that some things weren't appropriate... but at his heart he remains the same petty, vengeful, charismatically abusive individual he was back in his youth.

You didn't deserve that treatment. And your teacher should have lost his job.

What I sometimes consider, in my case, is what did this type of setup have on my own mind and future relationships? Did the fact that I was taught so young to appease this authority figure make me more likely to see the abuse I went through in my marriage to my sons' father as normal, and something to just "get through" rather than a situation that shouldn't be tolerated?

I don't know that I have the answer. I could have ended up in that situation anyway, and ultimately I make my own choices. But it sure has brought home to me just how much we need to attend to how we permit our children to be treated and to how we treat our children.

Thank you for a powerful post.

Fal said...

I'm afraid I'm a bit late to respond to this, but I did want to add something that you might consider. I don't know if you're familiar with the Suzuki method of teaching music; it's hard to explain briefly but the idea is that music is learned in the same way a person's mother tongue (native language) is. So, the earlier you start studying music, the better! Suzuki teachers will take children as young as 3 or 4 years old, and the method highly encourages parents to get involved and learn alongside their children. I can personally recommend the method, I learned to play the cello this way and studied from the time I was about 3 or so until I was 18. After 18 I got rather busy with school and didn't really have space for a cello anyway (dorm rooms), but because I learned so young I know it's something I can always go back to. Although I have to say I don't particularly relish the thought of having to build up all the calluses again! Ouch!

Anyway, I think this might be something you could consider looking in to. I see no reason for your daughter to wait until she starts school to start studying music, and if you're at all interested in picking the violin back up this would be a great way to ease back into it too!

You can find a lot more information on the Suzuki Association website at http://suzukiassociation.org/ where they have more details about the history of the method, as well as information on finding a Suzuki teacher in your area.

Whether you end up trying this method or not, I wish both you and your daughter good luck~

Lyn said...

Thanks Fal! I will look into that. That sounds like so much fun :)