Sunday, January 10, 2010

Summer Music Camp Inspiration Lasts All Year Long

From Guest Music Mom Kristin Bolton:
As I'm cutting vegetables for dinner I can hear my seven year old daughter working out the melody for Minuet 3 on her violin.

All by herself.

She keeps at it until she's figured out the melody for the first line. Then she puts down her violin, runs into the kitchen from the music nook, and says proudly, "Mama, I'm learning Minuet 3!" I'd be even more excited about this if she wasn't jumping ahead six songs in her book, and I secretly hope she loses a little steam so that she doesn't learn the bowing wrong. But ever since summer Suzuki camp, she's been unstoppable.

If you ask her what she liked most about camp, she'll say, "The puppets." That's right, the elective that involved no music, but lots of glue, yarn, socks, and a brightly painted wooden puppet theater. At first it shocked me when she said this because her music lessons were unfailingly fun, challenging, interesting, and effective; she made a marked improvement over the week.

And then I thought about her answer. While my daughter has incredible concentration, she would not have had the endurance to do all music all day. Camp electives connected her to music in a different way. In art she drew while listening to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, the movement about the thunderstorm -- just after a massive thunderstorm actually hit. And in yoga she learned ways to relax her arms, hands and shoulders, along with deepening her breathing and doing other yoga postures. Each time, she came to her next music class refreshed from these electives. But there are a lot of things she didn't mention that she loved; camp made a deeper impression on her musically and emotionally than she could explain.

For example, she loved the new music friends she made in all those classes. She knew that the other kids wanted to play music as much as she did, and put in as much time as she had with their instruments. She bonded with one eight year old girl who was with her in almost every class; we were like a family for the week, arranging to meet at the playground for lunch and sitting together for concerts. At their own initiative, the two girls performed a duet of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at their recital. My daughter loved being part of a whole community of musicians for a week; it opened up a new world for her, one that she wants to return to next year.

Belonging to a community of musicians made a deep impression on her. She wanted to learn how to read music, and started "composing" when she got home. Recently, she's started to noodle around on her violin, pick out violin songs on the piano, or have a band with her little brother. And she's firmed up her conviction that she also wants to play flute. She sees where she's going with her music, and she's very motivated and driven to get there.

Before camp, she'd make a face when it was time to practice, but would do what I asked. Now she's ready to go at practice time, taking on more and more during her lesson and even between lessons. I can hardly keep up with her. This sounds wonderful, but it's challenging in a different way. While she comes into herself as a young musician in this powerful way, I'm figuring out my role as her supporter and coach, how to step out of her way while channelling the sheer force of her energy. Still, as I listen to her humming "Gavotte," (the last song in her book) while she colors, I'm grateful and thankful for the change, and for the opportunity it presents me in my parenting.

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