Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A rest is as good as a change

Fiona took the better part of a week off practicing when she broke her collarbone. Then she had a week of "takin' it easy," playing mostly easy review stuff in the middle of the bow. Then about 10 days ago, mostly healed and totally pain-free, she got busy on the violin in a big way again, and it was as if she'd been learning all through her break, with the learning just waiting to be realized.

This is why I am not a big fan of "hundred day clubs," whereby children try to practice for a hundred consecutive days, often many times over, come hell or high water. I think that while daily practicing is a great goal to hold in mind, it shouldn't take precedence over illness, injury, relaxing in a hotel room or playing with cousins at a family reunion. Or over just taking a couple of days off to come back at things in a refreshed state of mind. Fiona was clearly integrating some important violin learning during her 'break,' and she obviously came back to it refreshed and enthusiastic. At her first proper lesson after the injury she was given a list of all her previous repertoire, divided up into groups for daily review work; I have never seen a kid so excited about digging into review groups!

Anyway, things are clicking. Her left hand is lovely, her tone and articulation clearer, and as of tonight it looks like she has a usable vibrato. It's subtler and more musical than it was before the break, it's easy for her to throw in, even on 4th finger, and it no longer necessitates her making her vibrato face -- in other words, like everything else, it's getting easier.

The other marker of ease is in her review repertoire. The two long Minuets at the end of Book 2, with their multiple repeats, trios and da capos, have always exceeded her 5-year-old stamina. Back when she was polishing the Boccherini and Beethoven Minuets, I used to ask her every day "do you think this is the day you'll have enough energy to play the da capo?" She would say "maybe," but then when she got to the end of the trio she'd sigh, sit down and say "maybe tomorrow." I eventually stopped asking. But first time she played these pieces after the break she played all the repeats and the da capo and it wasn't until I pointed out that she'd done the whole piece in one go for the first time ever that she even thought about it. "It's not that long!" she exclaimed. "I didn't even notice I was doing the whole thing!"

Boo for breaks of bones, but hurray for occasional short breaks from violin.

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