Learning to play violin was Olivia’s idea. Neither Tim nor I is musical. We can’t even read music. But whenever we drive, we tune the radio to classical. It soothes the tensions that seem to arise as soon as the kids are buckled into their car seats.

Almost from her first hearing of a symphony, Olivia picked out the violin and began asking for lessons to play it. I was thrilled that she liked the instrument so much, but didn’t want to push her into something she wouldn’t continue. I relented after she asked for a year; only then did I believe she was serious. We made a pilgrimage to Ifshin’s, a music store in Oakland that specializes in strings, and rented a quarter-size violin. I enrolled her in an after-school program, one half-hour lesson per week.

Right here is where I wish I could say that Olivia revealed herself to be a violin prodigy, a child who drops her backpack to the kitchen floor when she gets home from school and rushes down the hall to practice. Alas, I cannot.  Olivia likes violin, but deciphering notes, repeating scales, and perfecting her bowing technique is something else. The more my daughter progresses, the more challenging her practice becomes. Along with that comes increased frustration. Nothing else Olivia does is so fraught with tension. Many of our sessions begin and end with her in tears.

Olivia knows that studying violin is her choice, and doing work at home is part of the deal. Nevertheless, she still struggles and complains. Never once has she said with anticipation: “I can’t wait to practice violin!”

One of my favorite quotes is by the Roman poet Ovid: “Dripping hollows out rock.” Big changes happen in small increments. Mastering anything—running a 10K, learning a new language, playing violin—requires not only talent and desire, but perseverance. My challenge as Olivia’s mother is to help her understand that very important concept. Together, we’re trying.


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6 Responses to “Violin”

  1. Sveta says:

    Jessica, you put it so beautifully, I like the combination of talent, desire and perseverance. We are in the same boat with Alex’s band practice (trumpet). I also have to remind myself that most kids are not known for perseverance, unless it comes to whining. Hang in there. Olivia is learning much more than violin here, and you are doing a fantastic job helping her along the way.

  2. Jessica says:

    Sveta, You don’t know how relieved I am to hear that Alex struggles with trumpet. Judging from his ability, I assumed he was one of those happy practicers. Makes me feel better to know that it’s never easy, even for someone as gifted as Alex. Thank you!

  3. Joannie says:

    So well put, and the lesson of perseverance is a life skill that will be invaluable — although, it will take perseverance to get there….

  4. Jessica says:

    Oh Joannie, so very true! Thanks for reading.

  5. cynthia rovero says:

    hi jessica,

    i have over the past couple of years returned to my love of guitar and find myself equally challenged to make regular practice times. even so my lessons and practice times are a refuge from other activities that come easier. i find when milestones are reached i am super pleased with my accomplishment. maybe private lessons with an inspiring instructor will give practice a more charming appeal.

  6. Jessica says:

    cynthia: you are so right. even when we love something, practice is still hard. good advice about finding the right teacher. olivia has a great one, which helps a lot, believe me. so glad you’ve returned to guitar!

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