Noah and I, the family’s violists, have forged an amazing alliance. A couple of weeks ago, two years after I was excused (fired?) from my role as practising partner, he roped me in again. Things haven’t gone as smoothly with Sophie, and she’s chosen to continue to work independently. Noah has taken up the slack in my schedule, requesting that since I’m not working with Sophie, I can work with him “most days.” So far we’re practicing together every time there isn’t something in the way (like my work, or a meeting).

It’s amazing. He wants my help. He accepts my suggestions. He doesn’t cry. He tries things, even when they’re hard. He allows me to guide, direct his attention, suggest new ideas, encourage him to challenge himself a little more. His perfectionism is now a positive force rather than a handicap and source of anxiety.

The biggest difference this makes in his viola studies is in the efficiency with which he tackles and masters new repertoire. In the past three weeks he’s learned the entire Bach Double 1st movement from the end of Book 6, most of the Seitz Concerto movement at the end of Book 5, and has polished up two other shorter pieces. Nine pages of music. Now I’m the first to point out that speed of transit through the repertoire is not necessarily an indicator of progress on the instrument, but in Noah’s case new repertoire has always been a challenge. At first it was that his reading was lagging and he had trouble attending to details of bowing and fingering, hence learning the tune well by ear, but with technical inaccuracies that then had to be remediated. But even when his reading improved he was emotionally resistant to new pieces; he tended to procrastinate for days and weeks when it came to taking on something new in the repertoire … just as he tends to resist new activities.

But now that his violist mom is there with him, and he is keen for my input, those new pieces are not intimidating. He is gobbling them up. Now he can take on the challenges he’s been technically and musically ready for for some time. I wonder if it is a coincidence that the very same week I gave him a hearty push towards aikido was the week he asked me to come back and be his Suzuki parent.

He’s the most advanced viola student in the region now and neither my mom nor I have any experience teaching the repertoire he’s learning. He’s nowhere close to the level Erin is at on violin, but he’s in uncharted waters by virtue of being a violist. We know it’s inevitable that the day will come when he will need another teacher. We could probably muddle along for another couple of years if we had to, but we’re also looking at other possibilities. The obvious solution is to move him to our favourite viola teacher in Calgary. Even Erin, who is incredibly mature and driven in this respect, has struggled to maintain momentum between lessons that are 4 to 6 weeks apart. Noah will need my guidance in between lessons in a big way. It’s great to know he’s willing to avail himself of that.

Violists at work

One thought on “Violists at work

  • February 28, 2008 at 7:44 am

    …an excellent example of what dh and I laughingly call “the holographic universe”. Also known (by us) as “felicitous juxtaposition”.


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