Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dear Suzuki Book Concert

Dear Suzuki Book Concert,

You are the proof in mastery of a book in the Suzuki music theory series.  You are a celebration of growth and advancement in music learning for the student.  You are also a challenge to see how long parents can hold their breaths.

In Dear Daughter's Suzuki Music School, Book Concerts are held periodically for students who have learned all the songs in a book.  Students perform at least five songs from the book from memory, repeats and all.  Except for the piano, all other instruments require accompaniment with a piano.  This is an optional concert for students, as there are four required concerts for all students (2 solo concerts and 2 group concerts) each year.  It is undoubtedly not an easy feat. 

I found out about the dates for the scheduled Book Concerts about 6 weeks ago.  At that time, DD was on the last piece in Book 3.  The Spring group concert's music was just posted.  There will be four pieces from Book 3 (although one piece will be changed to another key) that DD will have to play anyway.  I had never felt that DD would be ready for a Book Concert as strongly as I have this time (she did not participate in any previous ones for Books 1 and 2).  I struggled with the idea for a few days.

First, I asked DD if she might be interested in performing in the Book Concert.  She shrugged.  Maybe.  If anyone deserves to receive the Most Indecisive Award of the year, it should be DD.  Granted, this isn't something that is fun; it is something that she would actually have to work hard for.  But she didn't flat out say no

Furthermore, committing to a Book Concert is not only work for DD, but I had many other issues to consider.  I would have to commit to all the practicing at home.  I would have to grow some extra patience, enough to last over a month.  I would have to face the anxiety of her going on stage for an optional concert. 

Since DD's very first violin recital, Dear Husband and I always smiled at her while we were a total nervous wreck on the inside.  I've often joked about sweating profusely and holding our breaths during her recitals.  These worries have evolved into questionable blood pressure and the need for anxiety meds on my part, and improved lung capacity and increased blood circulation on DH's part.  And this isn't Tiger Mom at work; I do not get myself into a mess because I want her to play perfectly or be the best performer.  DH and I have a near nervous breakdown for her sake.

As a little perfectionist, it is difficult for DD to make mistakes.  And when she does, she easily falls apart.  During the first few years of violin practices at home, upon any mistake, DD would start the piece over.  She would not listen to advice about just working on a few practice spots.  It was the entire piece, played perfectly, or nothing at all.  During those early recitals, we were so afraid that any mistakes she'd make would break her.  If she had a bad experience on stage, we thought for sure she would give up playing violin all together and consider herself a failure.

This is her fourth year of playing violin, and I guess she's learned a thing or two about being on stage.  She has put a certain kind of trust on the stage, where she goes into a special concentration mode that allows to her play with care and grace.  This is my fourth year of being a mom to a violinist, and I guess I've learned a thing or two about my own freakish paranoia.  I've finally realized that -- after every concert so far -- DD has always played beautifully, and nothing ever less.  Still, I struggled about whether or not to have DD participate in the Book Concert.  I knew that I could easily persuade Miss Indecisive if it was the right thing to do.  Or, I could have easily shut one eye and let the Book Concert pass us by.  But I wondered if I would miss an opportunity to allow DD to know what she is capable of.  I suspected that she was capable of this if we both worked at it together. 

So I took the plunge and signed up, after which DH said to me, "Why didn't you talk to me first before you opened your big mouth?" spoken like an equally freakish Dad about his perfectionist daughter.  (Okay, those may not have been his exact words, but it was indeed the exact sentiment conveyed).  See, I'm not the only one.  But I believed.  And we practiced.  And rehearsed with the piano accompanist twice.  And we got ready. 

This past Saturday, DD took the stage, and played 5 pieces from Suzuki Violin Book 3 (two of which will be repeated for the Spring group concert).  She played for 13 minutes total.  13 glorious minutes that made my heart swell with joy.  To have remembered all the notes was amazing enough.  To have continued playing through tiny little slips of the bow or finger was huge.  To have stood there with the grace and poise she possessed was monumental. 

It didn't matter that I popped my Xanax too late, and my heart pounded through the entire 13 minutes.  It didn't matter that I couldn't keep my feet still or that my palms wouldn't stop sweating.  It didn't even matter that DH broke his breath-holding record or that his arm almost fell off from holding the camcorder for 13 minutes.  What mattered was that DD accomplished something that made herself feel very proud.  The best part of this entire process for me was that there was not one single tear or one ounce of resentment on her part during practices at home.  I think we've both learned a thing or two about violin practices over the years. 

Unbeknownst to her, the kind of pride that parents feel about their children far outweighs the one you ever feel for yourself.  All the things I've done in my life that I was ever proud of shy in comparison to this moment, where I feel the pride for a little human being I call 'my daughter'.  It was then that I knew we had done the right thing.

So, Suzuki Book Concert, am I ever glad that we finally took a part in you after four years of violin lessons.  It was so nice to see all that sparkle on stage: the gleaming sequins on DD's shirt, the glittery diamond-studded black ballet flats she wore, the shiny blue nail polish she sported next to those violin strings, as well as the twinkle in her eyes as she finished the pieces and looked up from a last bow.  Wouldn't you agree?



  1. This post makes me hope my own daughter is musically inclined. I'm glad the concert turned out so well! Hopefully one day you will be able to enjoy them without the anxiety :)

    1. Hi, Rachel, I really do hope to be able to enjoy them without anxiety, although I fear that may never happen; parenting seems to be one giant anxiety attack, interspersed with sweet, cuddly rewards. But I'll take what I can. Thank you so much for hopping over to read and comment here! I hope to see your entry this weekend (and mine as well, as I came up empty last two times)!

  2. Maybe, if I listened to the Suzuki pieces, I'd be a better violin player today. ;-) As it is, I never went past beyond intermediate, I think. For the life of me, I cannot memorize the score.

    Congratulations to you daughter. I have classmates, young children, who are now musicians in their own right.

    1. I started learning with DD, and now, after four years, I've come to a grinding halt, while she is soaring ahead. That has to do with my new hobby (writing), but I still like to pick it up every now and then. I think that's how I first met you -- when you wrote about playing the violin on Trifecta! Now I remember! Thanks for reading the archives!

    2. Yep! I wrote a piece about my fear of performing especially with the little kiddies. :-) I found these stories through the earphone post. I meant to comment on that one then got lost when I saw that violin picture. That is a nice picture, by the way. :-)


    3. Thank you! Again, it's Instagram to my rescue. I also wanted to show off her funky nail polish, kind of jarring against the wood color of the violin. I just picked up my violin last night for the first time in months (blush). I'm trailing DD in an embarrassing sort of way now.