His violin is miniature. He rests his chin on a kitchen sponge, cut in half. There are little stickers on the back and the front frets to remind him where to place his fingers. He knows how to prepare to play, stand, and use the bow and pluck the strings. Musically, he has a long ways to go. But he seems to be enjoying the lessons and playing for others.
It takes a lot to divert his attention from the truck and Duplo scenarios we create on the floor. We build schools, playgrounds, parks, and libraries. The trucks put out fires, dump concrete and collect trash. When I ask him to play his violin he usually says yes, excited to show me what he’s learned.
He had no interest.
Later, after his dinner, his mother asked him.
His father asked him.
Then I heard about a practice chart and stickers. And about what happens when he accumulates 100 stickers.
Still no interest in practicing.
What happens? I asked.
“He gets a new truck,” his father whispered.
Right away, I thought about how so much of parenting becomes reduced to threats and bribes. How I had begged, pleaded, cajoled and probably bribed our kids to practice piano and the variety of band and orchestra instruments they had played: Jacob: clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone. Nathan: trumpet and cello; Lydia: saxophone and oboe.
I remember my parents nagging my siblings and me to practice piano. We were told we’d appreciate it later in life.
We do, I think, and we all still play now and then.
But forcing practicing doesn’t create a passion for music. With our kids, they began to practice when they wanted to improve.
“Just give him the truck.” I said. “Why take the joy out of the violin by making him practice? He’s only three.”
I left, knowing I’d offered unwelcomed advice.
I just hope they give him the new truck.
So parents and grandparents: Should kids be made to practice musical instruments? Share your experiences!