Sunday, March 10, 2002

Erin's Violin Blog 23

All I can say is it's lucky we're homeschooling. Music is taking up a lot of time, especially as Erin's piano abilities have begun to catch up to her violin abilities. We now spend over 2 hours a day practising the two instruments, and that doesn't include the time and energy devoted to lessons (and piano is now requiring an all-day out-of-town excursion), theory classes, group classes and orchestra rehearsals.

After a couple of weeks of really conflict-ridden practising, we seem to be back in the swing of things. Although Erin goes through regular spurts when she is extremely difficult to work with during practising, she's always adamant that she doesn't want to quit studying either instrument. So we keep trying to find ways to work together productively, even when it the task seems insurmountable. Recently we've been dealing with the loss of structure of weekly lessons, as Erin's grandma-violin-teacher is abroad for several weeks. We've started a regular practising challenge. She's trying for 64 days in a row. My own students were all asked to choose a goal, either 16, 36, 64 or 100 days in a row, and Erin has joined in with a 64-day challenge. She's already 40 days into a piano-100-day-self-challenge, so adding violin isn't such a big deal.

So here we are again, out the other side of the recent dark tunnel and we both feel happy about how things are going. We've done the "spade work" on the Bach Double 2nd violin part and are gradually putting the 1st and 2nd violin parts together. Almost half the piece is fitting together securely now. Our practising routine now includes some three-octave scales and arpeggios, a shifting exercise or two, some brief vibrato-development exercises, work on the Bach Double as a duet, polishing work on at least one other Book 4 piece, work on the two "new" pieces at the start of Book 5, playing through a review piece from each of the earlier books and a couple of fiddle tunes (Tam Lynn's Reel is a current favourite), and a few minutes spent on orchestra music. No wonder it seems to take a while!

We're toying with the idea of a summer Suzuki institute, but not certain. Because Erin's everyday life revolves around music, musical friends and musical events, rather than school, institutes aren't quite as much the unique immersion experience that they are for some children. I'm anticipating that Noah, her younger brother, won't be emotionally ready to be enrolled as a student this summer, and I'm not exactly relishing the thought of single-parenting my way through an intense institute week, with the needs of two younger siblings being to some extent set aside. We may opt again for last summer's solution: piano enrollment at our local (traditional) music summer school, with orchestral participation on violin as an extra hour. That way Noah and Sophie can spend a certain amount of time at home with their dad, playing and having their needs met more adequately.

One of the things that delights me about Erin's unique situation as a young, fairly advanced violinist in a small rural program is her lack of any condecension or competitiveness concerning other students. Perhaps it's partly her nature, partly the fact that she's not in an age-stratified environment at school, and partly the collection of musical friends she's blessed with, but she is not becoming a musical snob as she becomes more and more capable. She loves participating in group classes with the Book 1 kids, loves playing in community orchestra and giggling over missed entries with the grownups, loves "taking notes" for her little brother during his Twinkle practising.

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