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!
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Bethany is a freelance violinist/fiddler and tour manager who works with artists & events such as Kelly Minter, Cultivate: A Gathering Around The Word and Laura Story. She and her husband Keith live in Nashville, TN with their daughter Clare, cat & 6 backyard chickens. For more info on Bethany, visit her bio page!!