Monday, January 18, 2010

Splendid in Mind and Heart

I took my daughter Rebecca to her first Suzuki workshop this weekend. We had a blast. She had two group classes with a guest teacher, hung around for several other classes to hear some of the older kids play, and participated in her first play-in. She made some new friends, ate pizza, and attended her first violin recital. I went to my first parent-training session as a parent. I grew up in the Suzuki world, and I’ve taught for a number of years, but besides practicing with my child this was my first experience on the parent side of the teacher-parent-student triangle.

The session was refreshing, full of good insights. I was thankful for the teacher’s point that what we are doing is striving to produce noble human beings through the medium of violin lessons. Love and skill are terribly important—we don’t want one without the other. But we shouldn’t lose sight of that first goal, either. It’s not a new idea; Suzuki talked about it a lot. In fact, I had already pulled out the following quote to share with you before the weekend, and now I’m sure I was on the right track:

Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education     The mother of one of my students came one day to inquire about her son. This student had good musical sense, practiced very well, and was a superior child.
     “Sensei [Professor], will my boy amount to something?” the mother asked me, just like that.
     I answered laughingly, “No. He will not become ‘something.’
     It seems to be the tendency in modern times for parents to entertain thoughts of this kind. It is an undisguisedly cold and calculating educational attitude. When I hear things like this, I want to reply in a joking way. But the mother was alarmed and surprised by my answer.
     So I continued, “He will become a noble person through his violin playing. Isn’t that good enough? You should stop wanting your child to become a professional, a good money earner. This thought is concealed in your question and is offensive. A person with a fine and pure heart will find happiness. The only concern for parents should be to bring up their children as noble human beings. That is sufficient. If this is not their greatest hope, in the end the child may take a road contrary to their expectations. Your son plays the violin very well. We must try to make him splendid in mind and heart also.”

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