Keeping in mind my non-existent music base of knowledge, I had some struggles during our first year. The individual nature of the program left me unsure of my daughter’s ‘success’ or achievement. There is no defined calendar of grade level expectations like you see in school to give you an idea of what your child should be achieving and when. Given my sense of uncertainty at the beginning I found myself not trusting the process. I felt a sense of urgency for my daughter to graduate from the box phase, thinking we were moving too slowly and not making progress. However, now observing the tasks in front of her, I better understand the purpose of the box phase in focusing on form without the distraction of sound.
My ignorance also impeded my ability to completely understand some directions, vocabulary or expectations of the private or group lesson instructors. Sometimes I failed to intuit their expectations because I have no base of knowledge with which to do so, but other times when I knew I did not understand my pride was my main obstacle in admitting it and seeking further explanation. Proceeding knowingly ignorant did not do any favors for our subsequent practices.
I was much better about facilitating my daughter’s violin practice than my own during the parent education portion of the program. The practicing I did opened my eyes to how complex the violin is to play and how much brain power is required to do most anything on it. That realization helps me be more empathic to my daughter when she encounters new challenges. It remains humbling when I try to direct and/or correct something about her playing by trying to demonstrate it myself on her violin and cannot. It serves as a good reminder that even though I know what she is supposed to be doing and producing and I am coaching her accordingly, it is not nearly as easily executed as it is coached.
Regular student practice has been crucial in my daughter’s progress this year. As mentioned before, daily life for us is controlled chaos, and the ‘controlled’ aspect is reliant on routine. We have to practice regularly enough for it to be part of our ‘routine’ otherwise is gets lost in the mix. Any time we miss more than one day of practicing my daughter noticeably regresses or loses material she was newly solid on, which sometimes results in a more frustrating practice altogether. When she feels unsuccessful she loses momentum and enthusiasm going forward and it can be an uphill battle to get out of that rut. When she feels successful she is eager to practice, so abiding a routine and practicing regularly help keep her morale high and our practice dynamic pleasant.
My final insight from our first year is the value of good notes from private lessons to guide practice at home. With age (and children) I have become dependent upon lists and calendars to remember pretty much anything. Lesson notes serve pretty much the same purpose for me. On occasion I failed to note something I should have (wrongly assuming I would remember correctly the following day) and then misguided my daughter when practicing at home, for which we were corrected at our subsequent lesson. She has always been a good sport about my mistakes, but I feel bad to spin her wheels or waste our practice time fixing those unnecessary mistakes that were ingrained over the last week.
All in all, this past year of violin has opened my eyes to the dedication required to learn the instrument; it is truly a commitment on behalf of the student AND the parent. Trust in the process, motivation to learn, ample practice and good notes will help you enormously through your first year, especially if you enter into the program as ignorant as I did.