Friday, April 3, 2009

Confessions of a Music Mom

This post is the first in an occasional series "Confessions of a Music Mom"

This Music Lesson was for Me.

Meet Pam Reit, my 10 year old daughter's Suzuki music camp teacher.

"You know," she says conversationally to my daughter, now in her third year of violin, "I have a student. She's a wonderful student, who loves to play her instrument. And it's so interesting during our lessons, because her mother always, ALWAYS, always, bursts out with "that was sooo beautiful," and there are actually tears on her face. It's the most amazing thing."

With a glance towards me, Pam offers her radiant smile, shining eyes, and the instant communication of mothers worldwide: I know that you understand where I'm going with this point. Pam continues, "She loves every single note. She never says "that was great -Buuuuut...""

Pam looks at all the parents in the room, tosses her head back and lets out her deep belly laugh. "You know what I mean, right?"

During the lesson she intently focuses on each child, taking them on a journey to points unknown with their instrument. They are royalty and she is their 007, deftly guiding them, deadly serious, and always ready to rescue with her smile. They may walk into lesson feeling like a kid but they walk out feeling like a musician. Pam helps them find the musician she knows and trusts is in each child.

One of the ways she does this is by playing duets. After she's tweaked their technique and challenged their perception of their limits, she inspires with a duet. Pam will reach for her instrument, carefully prepare her bow, and stand facing your child as if they are a fellow soloist on a magnificent stage. Then on their cue, and with all her heart and musicianship, play a soaring duet of even a first year song.

This is the kind of experience that makes music camp so inspiring for kids.

What amazes and inspires parents, is when a teacher like Pam takes the risk of delving into the emotional connections between the parent and child. Connections that can get so jumbled up during the years of music practice. As a mom herself, a teacher and professional musician, she sees the big picture and lives it on many levels.

As a music mom you carefully balance encouraging your child and guiding them to use the correct technique as beginners. We also need to reach into our hearts to be in our child's musical moment. To give them our pure appreciation for the musician they are now, for all of the hard work and dedication it took to get here, for the song that may take less than a minute to play.

As they were finishing up their lesson, Pam looked at my daughter, carefully reached over for her violin, laughed and said, "Come on, let's make YOUR mom cry."

And they did.

Does life ever get so busy you forget the music appreciation part? How has your child learning a musical instrument affected your lives? We love your comments and Tweets!

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  1. Oh boy, is this me. I have a teen who is just fine running through a piece fast, with mistakes, and refusing to slow down and work them out. Repeatedly. It drives me crazy and I can't keep my mouth shut! I'm afraid I will drive him away from wanting to play. But would I do him any good by praising mediocre work?

  2. It might be useful to have a discreet phone conversation with your son's teacher to let her know that he may be in need of some tips or reminders about how to practice effectively. As you already know, teens tend to respond defensively to advice or comments from parents. I don't think you should praise his work if your comments aren't sincere. I believe it would be better to wait for an opportunity when you can make a heartfelt positive comment...he will know the difference!

    Good luck!


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