I love getting to meet people on the road and talk and hear their stories and questions. Often times I get asked how I started playing violin as a career, my stance on music education, etc. But then sometimes I meet moms of tiny violinists and the question comes up..."If my child isn't as excited about lessons as they used to be, do I make them keep going? Do I let them quit?" I always share my experience as best I can to encourage them.
Then a few weeks ago, a mom sent me a message on Facebook. I'd met them at an event a few years ago and we had talked...I'd encouraged her that violin could be a great thing for her then 6 year old daughter and she and her husband had felt that it might be exactly what the Lord had for them and their little girl. And apparently the little girl had the same idea. Lessons were begun with a beloved teacher and it was a great experience all around. Well, for a while. Then she'd been moved to write me a letter. Her daughter is now on the verge of turning 12 and they feel at a crossroads. To quote her letter, "She has a natural gifting so there's not that desire to practice, which I'm sure that's totally normal for her age. But we aren't going to let her quit because at this point we feel like we'd be letting her out of what we know God spoke. But I don't want it to be miserable for her!!! My question is, did you ever go through that? How did your parents encourage you to stay the course? What could I be doing to really make the violin something she loves?"
I felt a tiny bit at a loss. I can cheerlead for music education all day long as I've been both a student and a teacher. I know the impact it's made on my life. But there was a key element missing here as I've never parented a child at ALL, let alone through the decision to persevere or call it quits with an activity. But fortunately, I DID know someone who had been through this, not only with violin lessons, but with a myriad of extra curricular activities that I chose to be a part of as a child, adolescent and young adult. My own mom. So I emailed her asking if she'd be willing to sit down and write a response. Fortunately not only was she willing, but the letter she wrote was excellent. So excellent that it seemed a shame not to share it with you all.
Dear Fellow "Violin Mom",
I’m Bethany’s Mom. Bethany passed your message on to me, thinking that perhaps I could give you some feedback from the point of view of a Mom whose “been there, done that.”
Now, believe me, I’m not claiming to possess the wisdom of the ages, just a little bit that comes from experience. Here are some things I’d consider, although you may already be aware of all these:
I sure hope your daughter will hang in there – not necessarily to become a professional (that was not our goal with Bethany – just that music would be beneficial to her overall development) – but to have a skill she can enjoy throughout her whole life – and use to the Glory of God on many occasions.
Best wishes to you both!
About a month ago at a concert with Laura Story in North Carolina, a guy and his wife came up to me at the merchandise table. He introduced himself and mentioned that he was a violist and was especially curious to know what sort of gear I use to amplify my violin. It was fun to talk to him and geek out like string players do when they randomly meet. I scribbled down on some paper the different products that I'd recommend.
Today, I was thinking that it was about time for a new blog post and since I've had lots of other violinists and violists ask about my gear at various gigs, I thought that I'd write a few notes on the products that I use. Please note that I don't have any endorsement deals, so I've not been paid or perked to mention any of this...it's all just stuff I love after a lifetime of trying different violin related products. (Although if you happen to work for one of these companies and feel like sending me free stuff, I'm totally cool with that as well.)
I highly recommend you purchase products from The Violin Shop located on 8th Avenue South in Nashville, Tennessee or HERE at their Online Store.
If they don't have what you need in-store or online, then I recommend Young Musicians, a Ft. Worth based company that began just as I was beginning violin lessons.
Other quality retailers include Corner Music (Nashville, TN), Williams Fine Violins (Nashville, TN), Shar Music (online), Andy's Music (Mobile, AL), and Southwest Strings (online).
Wolf "Super Flexibel" Shoulder Rest - Growing up I was a hardcore fan of the Kun Original shoulder rest, well, after I graduated from a kitchen sponge to a WeBad to a real shouder rest that is. My teacher in 8th grade told my mom I had to buy a Wolf, which we did (we were complient folk) and I hated it. At least I hated whatever model we bought back then. But a few years ago when my Kun finally bit the dust (yes, I'd gone back to my Kun!), I noticed this model by Wolf in the glass case at The Violin Shop and tried it out and finally found the shoulder rest of my dreams. I had some difficulty location this exact rest online for you fine folks, but looks like the Wolf "Forte Secondo" might be the newer and fairly equivalent version. Cost: about $30
So there you have it! A few of my favorite things. What gear do you love? Any more questions? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Stories and thoughts and current happenings in music and life
Bethany is a violinist/fiddler and also works in women's ministry as a tour manager and support staff for author/speaker Kelly Minter & Cultivate: A Women's Gathering Around The Word. She and her husband Keith live in Nashville, TN. For more info on Bethany, visit her bio page!!