By Tanya Ward Goodman
My daughter has taken up the violin. At her school she was lucky enough to be able to sign up for orchestra and that means that not only does she get out of class on Tuesdays to rehearse, but she also gets to borrow a small violin for the duration of the school year.
She’s had the violin for one week during which she has not had any formal training with the orchestra teacher. She is, however undaunted.
“Would you like to hear a masterpiece?” she asks. She holds the violin against her shoulder and looks up at me expectantly.
I am hesitant. My brother played the violin and I know first hand that when you first start to play the thing all you get for your trouble are the same kind of sounds you’d get if you squeezed a cat really hard.
“I know how to write music,” my daughter says. “AAAGGEEEDDDGGG. All you need to know are AGBDF. And I know that.”
“Give it a whirl,” I say. And she does. The sound makes my teeth want to crawl all the way up inside my skull.
“A masterpiece,” she states.
Here is my opportunity to talk about the value of practice. I can sidestep the meaningless encouragement the parents of my generation are getting so much flak for dishing out and instead be honest.
“Would you like to take some lessons?” I ask. “I would think it might be hard to learn to play when you only have one class a week and it’s with lots of other people learning different instruments.”
Her eyes narrow.
“I can see you are very excited about learning to play the violin,” I say. “I think with some practice you will be a wonderful musician.”
“I know how to play,” she says. “I am writing my own music.”
There was a time that my daughter swore she spoke Spanish. She walked around the house naming objects in gibberish language. She does not speak Spanish, but she has cojones to spare.
I do not want to dent her confident shell, but I do think that ultimately she will be well served by a dose of reality.
I don’t tell her that she is, indeed, writing a masterpiece, nor do I mention the sounds of a distressed feline.
“I like your enthusiasm,” I say. And I do.
I hope that she will come to realize that the ability to play an instrument or speak a language comes from practice and hard work. It is a rare and lucky soul who has a juicy reservoir of natural talent and even the most gifted need to practice and work to be able to use their talents wisely and well.