I kept my eyes on the highway as our old white van whizzed past small towns in Maryland's rolling suburbs. Monday night, 5:25, three years ago. The twins had only recently gotten their driver's permits, so I decided to drive Austin to orchestra rehearsal that night. His straight-forward comment broke the silence. "Mom --- I have to tell you --- I'm quitting orchestra tonight..."
"Wwww -- What?" I responded while I tried to hide my utter shock. Yes, I knew that the pieces were hard. Yes, I knew that his instructor had been away, and wasn't able to help him conquer the technical parts this past month.... but quitting? What about the high school resume'? What about the camaraderie and experience of being in an orchestra? What about....?
So, I resolved to do something I rarely do --- remain calm. It was a struggle! With eyes fixed ahead, I focused on driving and said, "Wow. How did you come to this decision?" We had about twenty minutes to talk until we arrived at the rehearsal hall...
"Please just talk to the conductor," I urged. "Just talk to him afterward, okay?"
I pulled the van up to the curb. Austin retrieved his viola out of the back seat, gave me a nod, and walked up the steps to rehearse for two and a half hours...
In recent blogs, we talked about music, and how beneficial it is to our homeschool programs. I shared a few of my own experiences, and assured you that whatever investments you make in music --- it will not be for naught...
When kids are young, it's great to introduce the names and sounds of various instruments. Elementary students can learn vocabulary and spelling words relating to music such as: allegro, concerto, and sonata.
Take one instrument at a time (strings, woodwinds, and percussion) and talk about its beauty and purpose. Ask your children to describe what a mandolin or piccolo sounds like. And remind them that every day they carry around the most amazing instrument of all --- the human voice!
Whether kids learn to sing, strum, beat, or pluck an instrument -- here are a few simple reminders as they study:
- Be very patient. Instruments are difficult to learn! It takes a lot of time to progress, so don't expect overnight results. Violins might screech at first, and you'll probably get tired of hearing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Yankee Doodle.
- Be extremely encouraging. Phrases such as, "Great job!" or "Excellent improvement!" go a long way. Also, give kids plenty of opportunities to play for people, especially those who will bolster their efforts and spur them on to greater heights. Grandparents and relatives are notorious for this!
- Find the right instructor. Proper instruction is essential for a child's progress. If you're looking for a teacher, talk with other parents who have children in music. Pray, and ask people if they know of reputable, reliable, well-trained musicians, schools, or studios in your area. Your church may know of someone, or a community college in your area might refer you to professionals who offer private lessons.
... About that winter night three years ago --- I sat in the back of the rehearsal hall reading Cultural Geography to prepare for the next day's lesson. After the last song, the conductor dismissed the young musicians. Each student gathered their music, packed up their instruments, and met up with moms or dads in the back of the hall.
I headed to the van, and waited. Finally, Austin swung the door open and settled into the front seat. I started the ignition and drove toward home, hoping that he'd speak first.
"Well, I talked with the conductor," he offered, "And decided not to quit after all. Mr. Worth thinks I can do it, and encouraged me to stick with it for the rest of the semester."
Breathing a big sigh of relief, I affirmed his decision, then quietly reflected on the fact that this was about so much more than studying music --- It was all about learning what it means to persevere. I was so glad that he decided not to quit that night!
I encourage you to think about the life lessons that your kids might learn as they study music. Please check out Life Lessons Learned From Telemann when you have a chance.
Once again, I'm sure that you'll find music to be one of the most beneficial experiences in homeschooling!
Keep teaching! God bless you.
P.S. Here's Austin & I after the Liberty Symphony Orchestra's closing performance this past spring. Of course, when I listened to the concert, I couldn't help but think back to that pivotal winter night a few years ago!