I have long been puzzling over how to approach my children's musical instruction. It's early to worry too much about it, but I'm very eager, and maybe a little pushy. Some families start their kids as young three years old, and if I were to follow suit, my oldest would have been playing for nearly five years, and my youngest would have started music lessons last year. I actually did attempt to start my kids as toddlers--we have a tiny violin with a broken neck to prove it.
It just so happens, that starting our children at three years old was impractical, if not impossible. There was no interest on my kids' end, and no patience on mine. It reminded me of the frustration I felt when I tried to read to my 6-month-old as a new mom. I had often been told of the benefits of reading to your baby, and warned of the consequences of not doing it; but learned that my son had no ability to sit still in my lap, no concept of what a page was, and no interest in letting me turn that page. I gave up. But only until Jeff was older, and now he loves reading!
When Jeff turned six, my husband started giving him piano lessons, and I started giving him violin lessons. I thought I was the expert, having taught hundreds of students; and that my husband was the amateur. I regret to say I was critical of my husband's relaxed approach, as I pushed Jeff to do everything exactly right--perfect posture, perfect intonation, perfect bow hold, etc. We got through our 100 lessons, as I advertised on the blog some time ago, and then we quit. On the other hand, Jeff is still going very strong on the piano.
Fine, Jeff can be a pianist. We'll need a good pianist if I'm going to play Brahms Piano Quartets with my kids. Maybe I should not have any of my children learn the violin. Girls and their mothers have enough issues between them without sharing an instrument. And they certainly can't play the same instrument as each other! Emmy seems like a viola personality to me. And that leaves Camille with...cello! Hooray!
Proud of myself for having figured it all out, I go out in search of a viola teacher for my five-year-old. As it happens, they don't really exist. Nor are there small-sized student violas. In the meantime, Jeff starts picking up the violin on his own, and asking me to teach him. I'm not about to fall into that trap, so I call another violin teacher, who says she can take him. (Dave wonders what in the world is wrong with his wife. Isn't one musical instrument enough for a boy? A boy who also takes dance classes? But he's good, I tell him--he's a natural dancer. Never mind that he's the only boy in the whole dance academy. Dancing will help him in all other sports, too, I remind Dave. So, Jeff can quit dance when you sign him up for soccer? Sure, I say--but I don't really mean it, because he's just so good! And that's going to be my struggle with Jeff in everything--he's good at everything he does. I know he can't do it all. But I can't not give him every opportunity, can I?)
All of that was the background to yesterday's events. I took the kids on a "field trip" to the music store, where I showed them what different string instruments sound like. I got down the big cello, and let the kids hear the sounds of the open strings, and then let the kids sit down and hold the cello. Emmy's eyes just lit up. I pulled out a viola, and while I was tuning that, Jeff said, "That sounds way cooler than the violin!" Camille just ran around, while I tried to keep her from banging on the drum set in the corner. There will be no drums in this house, not if I can help it!
Since Jeff can't take viola lessons yet, I will proceed with the violin lessons that have been arranged, so that he can easily transfer to viola when he's a few years older. And Emmy will be our cellist! When I told this to Dave, he said, "I always thought of Emmy as being more of a cello person." I should have asked him in the first place, I think to myself, until Dave adds, "I see Camille as a flutist."