Today I watched Emily, a five year old who has not been to Kindergarten yet, slowly unlatch the case, uncover, and carefully remove a tiny (one-eighth size) violin. She smiled with pride as she told me that she could play the first two pages of music in her book. This was her second lesson. We sang with the piano and plucked on the violin several different arrangements of the notes D and A over and over again. She is so tiny. And so excited about the world. And right now, about being a real violinist. I always have this great and noble desire to empower my students, to let them know that they can do anything, be anything. But Emily doesn't need to be taught that. She totally believes it already. She doesn't mind making mistakes, starting over, trying new things. She hasn't learned to be afraid of messing up yet. When do we learn that we shouldn't sing in front of other people? (Rudd's are not included in that question--regardless of the truth, we all tend to think we have GREAT singing voices) And when do people label themselves as non-musicians, or bad artists, or not creative, or whatever?
Another student, Laura, just graduated. She's never played for anyone in her life, except for me- during her lessons. She doesn't even practice around her parents. She told me at every lesson before the recital..."Now, I probably won't show up for the recital, you know. I just can't play in front of people." Then later it was,"Well,... I promise I will come to the recital, but I probably won't play." She came. And she and I, together, stood up in front of well over one hundred people and played Shubert's Serenade (a duet). It was beautiful. Not the music,... I mean that was nice too...but the confidence and the satisfaction that she couldn't disguise on her face was beautiful. I was so proud. She isn't going to become a famous violinist, professional musician, or a music teacher. She may not ever perform on the violin in public again, but she knows that she can if she ever wanted to. I hope that she can see her own beauty, and talent. Somewhere between Kindergarten and Highschool and adulthood, most people lose that hopeful, honest, understanding of themselves. They think that mistakes, differences, uniqueness make them somehow less able, less valuable. I hope Emily doesn't lose her honest, innocent confidence. And I hope Laura regained a little of hers.