A few weeks ago, a well-known Russian virtuoso came to town to play a famous violin concerto with a pick-up orchestra. I immediately called all my students and insisted that their parents bring them to the concert. Why, you might ask, is this so important even for children as young as five or six years of age?
1. There is great value in having your children see that someone famous does all the seemingly useless and annoying things that their teachers ask them to do: hold up their violins, elbow underneath, little finger on the stick, use the bow at the frog, watch the conductor and sit up straight (for orchestra players), stand up straight (for soloists), pull the bow straight, etc. It really does save the teacher a lot of hot air – or at least she can say, “If Viktoria, Anne-Sophie, Vadim, Gil, Hilary, Maxim, Shlomo, Sarah, David, Midori, Nigel, (name your virtuoso) are doing what I’m telling you to, then don’t you think you should too?”
2. If your children are fortunate enough to have a teacher who is also a performer, make sure you go to her performances – first to provide moral support, and second so that your children can see that their teacher practices what she preaches which gives more weight to her advice.
3. Attending a performance will reinforce the concert manners they learn in group lessons and recitals. It also teaches respect for other listeners and for the musicians.
4. They learn that musicians are mortals, too. Even the greatest of artists will make mistakes sometimes. Students are often shocked when this happens but it makes them feel more like colleagues, fellow perfection-seekers, rather than worshippers. They also feel a lot better about their own mistakes when playing in public. Seeing how a real pro recovers from a mistake is a most valuable lesson for students – it can change their perspective by teaching them that what’s important is the music, not the mistake: that the performer must keep going and draw as little attention to his mistake as possible to make sure that his public’s attention stays on the music instead of on whatever error he may have just made. Continue reading