Ellie’s violin

We’ve had a lot of advice and impersonal posts lately, so I thought I’d do one final post this week that was much more personal.

Elanor has started learning violin.  She first said to me that she wanted to learn to play over a year ago, when she saw Elmo playing the violin on Sesame Street.  I checked with several music schools and the youngest students were accepted for suzuki violin (a style of learning that focuses more on learning by ear than reading music–a better approach at this age, given that E doesn’t read words yet, much less music) was three.  Obviously, I was due around her third birthday, and classes were winding up for the year, so we delayed starting classes until February of this year.

However, Ellie had her first up close and personal experience with a violin at Dawn’s home when we were back in Boston this past January.  Dawn has been playing almost her whole life and is an amazing violinist.

Ellie and Dawn’s daughter, F, dancing while Dawn plays for them

Dawn also had a child-sized violin, which she took out and showed E and F before letting them try it out.

It’s clear F has been paying attention when he mom plays for her–look at that natural comfort with the violin!

Elanor was thrilled when Dawn let her try the violin out.  I didn’t catch her smile on camera, but she gave Ravi and I this huge enthusiastic smile that showed how excited she was more than any description I could give you.  Since then, she talked non-stop about learning violin and how she was going to get a violin, and how Miss Dawn could teach her everything about violin.

Elanor was thrilled when last week we FINALLY (in her eyes) got to get her violin and go to class together.  Yes, together.  In the Suzuki method, the parent learns along with the child and practices along with the child.  I figured it probably doesn’t hurt that violin gives Ellie and I something special together that she doesn’t have to share with her sister.  It also gives Ravi and Rhiannon some time every week to chill out and bond without Ellie and I there to distract.

Getting a violin that’s Ellie sized required us to get the smallest one…a 1/32nd violin.  For comparison, these are our violins, side by side.

The Mommy violin and the Ellie violin as Ellie calls them

Right now, violin practice means standing in rest position and play position, and holding the violin at our sides correctly.  We also listen to our Suzuki cd in the car, which Ellie calls her “special violin cd.”  She’s eager to get the bow and get moving.

Her class is 5 students and a parent with each student (4 moms and a dad in our case).  Right now her attention begins to waver mid-class because it’s a lot of listening and sitting still–things Ellie needs to work on (yet another reason we’re pro violin lessons–learning discipline), and no actual playing yet. But as I have told her, we need to learn each step, and then we’ll be able to play as well as Miss Dawn if we practice every day for a long time.

Ellie wants to know that if she learns to play as well as Miss Dawn if she can have a pink violin.   My response is that I would hope that by the point where we’d consider buying E anything but a student violin, she’d be over wanting a pink one.  Sigh.


Ellie takes lessons at Mandeville Music.  So far, I’m very happy with the teacher we have and her patience for the little ones.

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14 Responses to Ellie’s violin

  1. Maybe she’d be happy with a pink violin case. Or a special pink luggage tag (name tag) on her regular violin case 😉
    That’s great. I wish I’d kept up with any instrument, and wish I’d worked to keep my kids involved in music (and sports) as they moved from childhood into teen-hood.

    • Crystal says:

      I think we’re going to make sure that she’s ready to stick to it before we invest in anything more (than the stuff we’ve already had to buy-2 violins, the books, the practice mat-shows feet in rest and play position, etc). Maybe a luggage tag if she makes it through to the second session (which I think she will, but it’s only been 2 classes).

      I did vocal music from 6th-12th grade. I wish I had kept it up beyond high school. I didn’t start learning an instrument until I was 14…I wish my family had been able to do so before. Ellie is far less self conscious about making a mistake or “failing” than I was at 14, when I was acutely aware that my playing left much to be desired-pitch, rhythm and accuracy among others.

  2. kirsten says:

    I hope that she’ll be over a pink violin by that time too.

    It’s so cute how she’s so excited about learning violin. I was never like that, which my grandparents should have taken as a sign that I was NOT meant to be a violinist like my mum. (Although from the way she tells it my mum was never particularly enthusiastic either, so maybe my grandma thought she could make it work again.)

    • Crystal says:

      I think it really helps that she had early non-family exposure in a positive way. Elmo plays the violin (and piano) and she’s a big fan of a pre-k show called “Little Einsteins” which features classical music in an accessible way (they make up words appropriate to the “mission of the day” to go with a very short part of a classical piece like the 1812 overture or what have you) and a character there plays the violin (and tons of other instruments) as well.

      I’m curious–how old was your mum when she started learning? Did she ever want to be anything but a professional violinist? Oh, and I should ask–does the Symphony ever do shows for kids? I know the Boston Symphony Orchestra does a few shows a year aimed at kids (earlier time, shorter pieces, etc…or at least I believe they have in the past)

  3. Dawn says:

    I have a friend who was in Suzuki school with me and still plays (though not so much serious classical music as folk dance accompaniment and musical pits and stuff like that), and she had her violin dyed blue. It can be done (colored varnish), but you’re probably right that she’ll be over it by the time she’s an advanced player.

    Also, I’m so glad I was able to show you the kiddie violin (which I think was a 1/10th size) and that Ellie got excited about it and is now enjoying her lessons! F is asking for lessons too, but I want to wait until she’s at least 3. I didn’t start until I was almost four.

    And I’m super flattered that Ellie thought I could teach her violin! (I would, if I were not half a world away, but taking group lessons is going to be more fun for her anyway.)

    • Crystal says:

      If it helps with F, tell her that E had to wait until she was 3 to start, too. I think it’s so sweet that F is eager to play too.

      I think the group lessons will be fun, but right now I definitely feel stress when the other kids (who are all older–4 or late 3, something to consider) are better behaved in class. E can get bored when the teacher goes around correcting other kid’s posture or is teaching the parents so that we’re one step ahead.

      Random question–what is the difference (if any) between a violin and a fiddle? Is it just the style of music you play?

      Thanks for the link, but I think that a pink violin would also not go over so well at her school. Violin seems to be a very serious thing here in SG 🙂

      • Dawn says:

        Yep, violins and fiddles are the same instrument, but may be customized differently to suit the different style of music. For example, someone may fit their fiddle to be more like a baroque violin – no shoulder or chin rest, and hold it on their chest instead of their shoulder.

        I entered a fiddle contest once when I was 14, and won an honorable mention prize, because I didn’t play “in the correct style” to be considered for a real prize. (I think that means my intonation was too good.)

      • Crystal says:

        cool, thanks for explaining 🙂

  4. bookjunkie says:

    I always wanted to learn the violin when I was a lil kid but somehow never got to. Ellie’s violin is gorgeous. It’s wonderful that she gets to learn so young 🙂 I learnt the piano instead and although I hated lessons (bad tempered teacher) I am so glad that I know how to read music. It’s something I will always be grateful to my parents for.

    • Crystal says:

      I tried to teach myself piano in college, but stumbled once the two hands were doing different things at the same time. So challenging!

      I think it’s wonderful to read music 🙂

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