Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Concert Nightmare

Well - Delta had his violin concert!

First, let me start that the night before, I hadn't slept well at all (coughing) - and I was helping Bravo (another older sister) move that day too.

So, by the time I'd done all that - I got home just in time to change and take my husband to work with the kids in the van. (He had gotten them all ready) He just made it to work - and we were on time for the concert, but not as early as we should have been. Charlie was going to watch Echo at the concert during the period that I was on-stage with Delta - which was right near the beginning. I think the cellos played first. So we just got setup in time for me to take Delta down, and wait.

So - Delta did great! There was a lot of people there (I'm guessing around 300 or so) - and he did everything he was supposed to! YEAY!

Well, we get back up to the level where we were sitting - and Charlie is out in the bathroom with Echo because Echo is just screaming! Charlie hands her over (Charlie was upset) and she left to have a break. (I found out later that someone was rude to Charlie AFTER she had left with Echo because Echo was crying.

So after trying to get Echo calmed down (which she wasn't - and she pointed near her ears when I asked if she was hurt.... hm.....) - I decided to take the kids back in hoping that me holding her combined with the music would comfort her.... and I could put the violin etc back in the case - and if it wasn't working, I could pack them up and go. I knew that people wouldn't want to hear her crying. So, it helped a bit but she was still crying, so I started getting her into her snowsuit.... and well, it just goes bad from there.

Some lady comes and is being just rude. She wasn't trying to be rude but she was. She was that I needed to get my baby out of there (um - duh - I'm putting her snowsuit on) - and then she expected me to just pick up the violin, clothing for 4 (winter coats, hats, boots, etc) and drag 2 children, neither of which want to leave - all by myself! She did offer to help - but what I wanted for help is to get the kids into the outfits - not to just cart the stuff out in a heap! Anyway, it was really getting blurry in my head because I was just so upset, dissapointed and tired!

One of the mom's from Delta's group came and helped - I think she got him in his boats and coats, while I continued putting Echo into stuff - and then we carried my and Charlie's stuff out and violin etc - about then Charlie got back - and this rude woman was still saying stuff - and when I got out the door of the concert hall - I just went BOOM! I was crying and yelling that I was doing the best I could, that I was taking her out. The rude woman was there and was patting my cheak - and I yelled at her "Don't touch me". I think someone got her out of there. Delta's group teacher was there, and someone I don't know. The person I didn't know asked if she could hold Echo while I got my coat on - and Delta's teacher got me some kleenix, and talked to Deltaa while (who was busy telling me that it was all right....) - and I got calmed down. I asked the person I don't know who it was that kicked me out - she said it was someone's grandma.... (after saying that I wasn't being kicked out - um - yeah, I was.....)

So anyway, between that scene and me crying at the one group lesson, the other moms must think I'm the most emotional person in the world!!!

And once again - we didn't get to hear the other kids play the violins.

I am still pleased with how well Delta did performing in front of 300ish people.... and so I'm glad we went. And Echo seems ok today again. She cried until about 15 - 20 min into the car ride, when she fell asleep. She does have a cold - but once home, she seemed ok, just tired.... and today she is running around with her sniffy nose....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Day and Night

Well, the difference is like day and night!!!

Last week, at Miss A's lesson, Delta did everything he was supposed to do, with confidence and skill - and so he earned his violin!!!! He was so pleased and happy (although at first he was confused because she said he gets his new instrument..... so then he was thinking he was getting a piano or a cello..... - we got that straightened out though!)

Since then, Delta has practiced well pretty much every day. He still sometimes isn't pleased to, until the violin is out, and then he is thrilled. I've been keeping practices really short - basically just holding the violin, and practicing "Up like a rocketship" (and so the bow hold) for the concert. I have sometimes added in the singing of "A" (his favourite practice activity) and naming the violin parts. He can easily hold his violin for all of "Twinkle Twinkle", although the first couple of times he was extra nervous. He was scared it would drop and fall. So far he hasn't dropped it. After the main part of his practice, he gets to "pluck" the violin. Miss A said he isn't allowed to put the bow to the violin yet - but that he can pluck it. He really likes to pluck the strings while I finger "Twinkle" - because it is actually playing it.

I figured a lot of the trouble was that he wanted the real violin and was tired of the box one.... but there wasn't much else I could do about it. One of the other moms at the group class commented this week about how much more focused Delta was - that he was totally doing what he was supposed to be and not getting distracted by everything.

Tomorrow is the concert - should be interesting. I hope he likes seeing the other kids play, as he really hasn't had the opportunity yet.

Miss A gave us a paper with a Snakes and Ladders game on it for christmas. Each square has something different that he can practice. We will see how he likes it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This and That

Well, it has still been an interesting experience with lots of ups and downs. Delta has earned his bow (a week ago) - and was so close to earning his violin. Unfortunately, he totally refused to do anything at lesson this week. I was about ready to cry again - the weather here was so bad (a snow-storm the day before) and it was so cold, and I took him to the lesson..... he was happy to be there - then ended up not doing ANYTHING.

Miss A talked to me after he was done - had him look at books in another room because I was clearly at the tears point. He really is at the same basic point as her other students (although some of the kids with different teachers are a bit further) - which really is amazing because of all the challenges he has been giving. She knows he can do everything he has been taught so far (really, he is learning very quick.) She figures it is basically a form of perfectionism and performance anxiety. He doesn't want to do things because he is worried that he will make a mistake. Especially if he thinks that it is important. She has sent me via email some thoughts and ideas.

Yesterdays practice went really well - I kept it low-key and short, trying to keep totally positive - and he co-operated great - did a fantastic bow hold and held it - and put up his boxillin properly and held it. Today's practice he wasn't as keen, so I also kept it short, and just did stuff that he knows really really well and likes to do.

His first concert is in about 2 weeks - he and a few other kids will be doing "Up like a rocket-ship" with the bow I understand. Some of the other beginners (mostly older) will play the open "E" string in the "Manitoba Hot-Dog" rhythem.... which I have heard elsewhere called the "E-string concerto".

It is frustrating - but he is learning. It is so hard not to focus on where I want him to be.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Doing Better

I was sure I had posted one more time than I see here.... hm......

Well, things are going a bit better. Delta has still been refusing a lot of stuff - and we had one lesson with Miss A that all he did was do his bow, sing "A" and refuse to do anything until she convinced him to do a closing bow. The rest of the time was spent on my lesson. (By now, I am now playing Twinkle in all variations/patterns - but with long pauses between notes)

I made up the "Violin Game" - which is cards that we draw out of a hat. I made them with pictures to give visual clues to Delta.  Delta is doing practice a lot better, but is still refusing most of the time to deal with the "Boxilin". But he was refusing to practice ANYTHING before that, so it is still better.

Talked to his group teacher today, she suggested having him say how long he was going to hold the boxilin, and to use a timer. And if necessary, offer something like a chocolate chip for each 5 seconds. The talk was also good - she said that every child will have a "block" like this at some point. Some kids have it when they are starting and young - others might be 6 or 8 or 12, when they come across something they are having problems doing. She said that when they are older when it happens, they are more likely to quit.... while those that have it happen while they are young have learned to work through it. It is a hope I guess!

So anyway, last lesson with miss Anna, he did hold the boxilin for 10 seconds - which is great since he was refusing to even try before. 2 days ago in practice he did it for 32 seconds - a record for him.... but yesterday he refused, and during the group class he refused. So that is frustrating.

He is doing better at getting ready for his bow. He is the only kid in the group class that hasn't earned his bow yet. But he has 2 things he needs to be able to do to earn it.... one Miss A has already checked off. The other, he did 3 times the other day - so if he doesn't refuse to try it with Miss A during his lesson, he should be able to earn it! I'm hoping that that will make a big difference towards him working towards earning the violin.

It amazes me some of the stuff he can do already. I just get so frustrated when he won't work on what he needs to get to where he wants. He wants the violin - he kept going into my room and getting it out (until I put it on top of the bookcase...)

One other item - during group class, everyone played on the open "E" string (or pretended on the boxilin) - so once he has the violin things should start moving again!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tears - all mine!

Delta has been having some up and down weeks. Last week, his class went great. Since then though, he has been refusing practices except for a couple of favorite activities. He had managed to hold his box-violin for the whole Twinkle song (but it was hard work!) But now he will hardly touch it!

But that wasn't the big tears! The big problem was during group class. I had Echo with me as well - which is hard enough.... but Delta wasn't doing anything he was supposed to! He was crawling under my chair, giving me hugs, or just generally refusing. And so between the 2 of them, I was so frustrated, embarassed, etc.... that I just started crying! Later a few of the mom's checked on me.... and the next day the group teacher called. We have a plan of attack for the next week. It has just been frustrating.

The group teacher is great though - even with Delta in that mood - she did get him to do a couple of things... One of the things that she did was teach them the dynamic symbols (pp - pianisimo p - piano f - forte ff - fortisimo) I never would have thought that you could teach kids that young the concept, but they got it right away.

Anyway, I have called Miss A - so she has a couple of ideas to try for this week.

I just wish it wasn't such a roller coaster at this stage!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

More lessons, and the Group Lesson!

Well, things have been going pretty good. Delta is not being as co-operative with some parts of the lesson - mainly putting up the violin. We have backed off on that, and the lesson yesterday,Miss A had him "be the parent" and put the violin up for me. He seemed to like that! She also gave us a little plastic ghecko, that loves violins. So we are going to practice balancing the ghecko on the violin. We are just going to work on him helping me unless he wants to try it himself again.

We had the first group lesson last Saturday. It was pretty interesting. There are 7 kids in his group class, so that isn't too bad. Most of them were 4 (or looked 4.... I didn't find out for everyone...) - but there are 2 seven year olds in the class. It also looks like there are 6 boys and 1 girl in the class. I always felt that violin was a "girl" instrument (probably because my sister played it) - but had heard that it is a "boy" instrument - and it does kind of appear that way! Of course anyone can play it.... instruments don't really have a gender. The group lesson was a bit long - 50 minutes! Delta and most of the 4 year olds were losing attention after about 35-40 minutes. It was still good. They practiced doing a bow (parents clap if the all do it at the SAME time....), and they did their clapping patterns, and practiced putting up the violin, and a bunch of stuff. Delta did enjoy seeing the other kids. I think he was relieved that they were all about the same stage as him - I think he thought they would be able to play!

This is sure a long process! Delta hasn't even touched his pretend bow officially, or gotten even close to getting to use his real violin! I am seeing progress though, and I can see how some of the things they do will be used later. He does know all the parts of the violin, including the name of each string. He is starting to get a couple of the clapping patterns, which are used in the "Twinkle" variations when they learn to play them. He can sing the "A" note pretty much right on pitch. He has a cool bow, and is learning how to handle his "boxilin" better. He also for the most-part enjoys listening to the CD music. It can just be discouraging when we go to a lesson, and he isn't behaving that great. Miss A is fantastic with him though.

Charlie (Delta's older sister) went with us to his lesson yesterday - and played photographer. She took a few pictures, and a bit of video with the digital camera.... so that is helpful.

Well, gotta go!

Monday, September 24, 2007

All Strings Night

It has been a long week... Last tuesday was Delta's third lesson... and we hadn't really practiced. It went ok (I told Miss A before we started that we hadn't practiced.) Delta was not fully attentive, and was eager to leave by the end of the lesson.... apparently that is common among young children when they hadn't practiced.... they know they didn't practice and are edgy about doing stuff they know they aren't doing as well as they would have.

Anyway, Delta is working on the same stuff - the main thing is placing the box violin into playing position. It is probably one of the more important things to practice, and of course it is the one thing we practice that he doesn't really want to practice. I can understand his feelings on it though - it does feel awkward.... and he is having to do it with a box!

On Thursday there was an All-Strings night for the suzuki program. All the returning string instruments would be playing their songs.... and the beginning students could come and watch. Miss A wanted to properly size all her students for their violins (as there would be a selection of the sizes there). Of course it was a night that my husband worked. I had planned for him to drop us off there (it started before his job), and then we would take the bus home. But then I had to take Charlie (my step-daughter) to the doctor because she wasn't feeling well.... so we didn't get home in time for that to work out - so we took my husband to work, then drove to the strings night. By the time we found parking and everything, we were about an hour late - and they were half-way through the last song. And guess what - the last song was "Twinkle Twinkle". Delta loved it though. I felt so frustrated I wanted to cry! Anyway, we went up to get sized.... and it ended up being worth it because Delta got to take his size of instrument home for his. We will be renting it. They only had 1 of each size there that night, so he was fortunate to get it.... and they only have a few at all to rent in his size anyway. He is in a 1/16th violin, which is the smallest they use here. (I have heard of a 1/32nd violin, the only smaller one, and they are pretty rare and not used much... and apparently it is not much smaller anyway.) It is SO TINY!

Delta was so excited about getting his violin, that he wouldn't let anyone carry it back to the car. He carried it very carefully (in it's case) all the way back. Before we left, I made sure that Miss A explained (as did I) that he still needs to use a box violin until he can show her that he is ready for the real one.

Practice has been going a bit better this week. I still didn't manage everyday with him (I gotta get the whole life routine worked out!) - but did manage about 3 or 4 times. He is upset that we aren't using his violin though. One practice I did use it for the "Name the parts" game. But I think that will be a bit of a treat though. Tonight when it was time to practice, he didn't want to, so I started practicing with Beta (his little sister...) - and zoom - he was right over and co-operating. Mind you, when I had to put her in a time-out a few minutes later for hitting him (she didn't want him to have a turn!), I have to wonder if maybe it isn't that great an idea.... Also, I lost the little footboard I made for her. He didn't want to practice putting the box violin in playing position, so we only managed to do it once - but I think it was a bit better. He is good at singing "Twinkle", generally aces naming the parts, is not too bad with his feet (oh - I think we forgot to practice the bow tonight.... oops!) and is overall still interested. But his favourite practice activity (and always has been) is singing the "A" to the note played on the violin or on the computer. The really neat thing is that he is actually getting the pitch pretty much right now! I'm impressed - as it shows that he understands what the purpose is, and can hear the pitch, and match it with his voice! I think that is amazing for a boy that isn't even 4 yet!

Oh, at the lesson I also learned how to hold the bow. Delta isn't ready for that yet. I suspect he will have a box violin for a LONG time!

We will see how lesson 4 goes tomorrow. Hopefully our practice has helped, and he will be attentive tomorrow. Also - Saturday is our first group lesson. That should be quite the interesting experience I should think! Not sure how big the beginning group is (but I think I heard 25 at some point?) - but I'm just picturing 25 little 3-5ish year olds with their little foot charts and box violins.... with no-one but the group teacher knowing what is going on and what to do. I'm sure that later weeks will be a lot easier, as the routine will be there - but I'm sure this Saturday will be interesting!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

2nd Lesson

Well, the second lesson went well. It was obvious that we had been practicing! Delta was able to name all the violin parts, and was actually pretty close to being on pitch when singing his "A"... He is good with his feet positions too.

Now we learned how to put the violin into playing position.... that isn't easy! Unfortunately, as "daddy" has been home from work this week, we haven't been practicing this week!

With me, we went over a way to hold the violin slightly differently in the resting position, so that when I put it in playing position, it is quicker to be ready to play. It is a bit awkward... But Miss A had been impressed with how relaxed my hand was. She also put finger tapes on my violin, and I am to practice putting my fingers on them as if playing. Although this hasn't been a part of the lessons - I'm able to "peck out" Twinkle Twinkle.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

More Practice

Well, Delta has been mostly happy to practice.... we have managed at least once a day.... occasionally twice. He is getting most of the parts of the violin right - is confused about the "tailpiece". I'm going to have to make a footboard for Echo though, as she keeps trying to go on Delta's - getting in the way! She wants to play the game too! Delta's favourited game in practice is singing the "A" note.... LOL. He seems to not like doing the bow at the end at all.

Yesterday we went to the local music store (all strings store) because I needed to get a new chin piece.... man stuff is expensive! We bought Delta his suzuki violin book 1. I haven't bought the CD yet (it is expensive), but I have a recording of Twinkle Twinkle variations, so should be ok for a bit... Apparently the chin rest on my rental violin was broken! Oh well.... For us to find something that was comfortable, I had to buy a sholder rest too. The sponge just wasn't working. I think we found a combo that will work, amoung the cheeper options.... so that is good! Of course, now I'm just going to end up having to buy a violin for myself... LOL.... but then one I buy would have a chin rest! ARGH. I also bought Rosin for the bow - so now we are set for a little longer...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

First practice at home

Yesterday was our first day to practice. It went well, we practiced twice, and Delta was eager each time. He is learning the names of the violin parts. Oh, and I forgot to mention. Miss A liked my box violin! She liked the picture on it, so that she could play the violin parts game with the box violin instead of one of the real ones.

Finally - the First lesson!

2 days ago, it was finally the first lesson. Delta was so excited, as he had been eagerly waiting for them and asking each day. (3 year olds have little sense of time!)

Our individual lesson isn't too close, but it could be worse. We have a newer teacher, but she grew up in the program, and is certified. I think she got a lot of the new students, as the more experienced teachers are pretty busy already with returning students.

Oh - did I mention that a part of the program is that I have to learn to play too at this stage? I am renting an instrument from the suzuki program right now, so it was waiting there at our teacher's place.

The teacher started with Delta. She got out a piece of cardboard, which is his foot-board. She showed him 3 different foot positions, and drew around his feet. ("Resting Feet", "Smiling Feet", and "Playing Feet".) Delta had the biggest smile on his face! We have to practice going to the different feet positions at home. He will also take his footboard with him to group lessons when they start next month.

Next, Miss A (our teacher) played the "A" string on her violin, and sang "A". With a few tries, Delta sang "A" too. Not at the right pitch - but the main thing is that he sang it. Then we played a game. Miss A would sing "Where is the chin rest" (and she pointed to it, as this is new...) and Delta and I sang back "There is the chin rest" pointing to it. She went over various parts.... that is another thing for us to practice.

Then she had Delta practice his feet positions again, then we handed him the box violin, and she showed him "Resting position", and taught him that he must always use 2 hands with the violin. I think that will take a LOT of practice!

Then he learned how to BOW, and his part was done!

Then it was my portion of the lesson... I went over the feet position quickly, and then learned how to move the violin from resting position into playing position. Boy is playing position uncomfortable! I will have to look for a different chin rest!

That was it for the day!


Our first lesson was coming up fast, and I had preparations to do! 3-5 year olds (or so) in the suzuki program start with a "Box Violin". This is so they can learn to be gentle, how to hold the violin and work with them without anyone having to worry that they will break them. He will probably be with a Box Violin for about a month or so.

My instructions were basically to take a small box (granola box for example) and stuff with paper. you stick a ruler or paint stick in it, tape it all up, cover it with paper and decorate it. Well, the way I am, I wanted the best box-violin I could make with my skills. I would have liked to glue several layers of cardboard together, and then cut it into the right shape - but I doubted my abilities to do that one! But I spent a bunch of time researching how big his violin will be, so I could find the best box in the house! Would you believe that it was almost impossible to find the depth of the violin on the internet! (which I figured was the most important measurement....) I finally found it - (don't remember off hand....) - and found a box that was pretty close to all 3 measurements..... It was a Robin-Hood mix box.... I think for angel food cake. Well, as we have had that mix for 7 years (we no longer have the right type of pan) - I just dumped the mix and used the box.

I got a couple of free paint sticks from Rona, and also checked in their cutting area.... and they had a perfect sized dowel (Delta's fore-arm length) in their scrap that I got for free to make the bow. I pasted and taped 2 paint sticks together to make it a bit thicker for the violin neck. I also pasted an eraser onto the dowel for the "Frog" of the bow.

I finished up the box violin by printing a picture of the body of a violin that I found on the internet. (I printed it with the print dimensions to fit the box perfectly!)

I am pleased with his little box violin.

[Note made much later - the bow should have been longer - I think more like the length of his whole arm, not just the forearm.]


After doing some research, it appeared that there is only one place to get true Suzuki lessons here. There was another place that sounded like they did - but then it was suzuki-like lessons. The place we are going to has the true suzuki program, with certified teachers.

I just like the suzuki philosophy. The combination of individual lessons and group classes. Learning the instrument through games, and learning to play the instrument before learning to read the music. (like you learn to talk before you learn to read!)

I also checked, and they have a bursary program. Although it is rarer for a brand new student to get the bursary - I applied, as we are really going to need it!

about a month later I got notification - we got the full bursary - so about half of our tuition is being paid. Hurray!

Why am I doing this?

First thing I had to ask myself was "Why am I doing this?" Well, honestly, I had always wanted my children to take music lessons, and as my sister took suzuki violin years ago, I was familiar with the program.

But if I had any doubt, it definately went away! Delta (my son) has always loved music.... and seemed to pick up the names of instruments quickly. He also seems to love violins. A couple of months ago, I went to a music store with him to look for some music. We walked in a bit (past a bunch of instruments) and he saw a violin. He saw it and said "My Violin!". I told him that it wasn't, and he said "My present violin???" I started doing more research that very day. (I hadn't mentioned anything about violin lessons at that point.)

For days, he kept asking me where his violin is.