Small daughter has decided that she wants to learn to play the violin. Lessons are being offered at her school and she came home in a state of high excitement, waving the information letter and telling me all the reasons why she wanted to learn. Listening carefully, I realised that this was something she really wanted to do.
Naturally, my first thoughts were of deadlock over practice times, screeching, scraping noises when she did practice and finally, a violin gathering dust in the corner. However, just because that’s how I was when I learned the violin many years ago doesn’t mean that small daughter is going to be the same. Besides, I really enjoyed being part of the orchestra I belonged to and although I didn’t much like playing by myself because I never sounded as good as Yehudi Menuhin, I did like the sound that I helped to produce as part of a group.
Big daughter plays the piano. It’s a completely different instrument; it can sound pretty terrible if you just bash at the keys, but big daughter has been playing for a long time now and she’s very good. I’ve hoped for a while that small daughter would want to emulate her big sister but although she’s had the odd lesson here and there, the piano just doesn’t catch her interest in the way it did with big daughter.
So last Friday, small daughter set off for school hardly able to wait for the afternoon when she would get her first violin lesson. It was lovely to see and I hoped she would be just as excited when she came home. Being able to play an instrument is, I think, something that you can hold onto forever – it’s a bit like riding a bike in that you never really forget although you do get rusty without practice. It’s an activity that absorbs both mind and body and gives you the opportunity to switch off from the world for the duration of the music – you simply can’t read music, think about which notes you should be playing and worry about your problems at the same time.
Then there’s the magic that music weaves. It conjures up images long-forgotten, emotions and sentiments rekindled simply by the words of a song or the bars of a tune. People who have not spoken for years through ill health will break into song when familiar music reaches into their memories and reminds them of who they were. How does it do this? Nobody knows – but if our young people don’t continue to learn to play music, then one day the skills will be lost and we’ll have nothing but what’s stored on our iPods.
So I’ll be encouraging small daughter to scrape away on her violin. Who knows, one day she might be as good as Yehudi Menuhin and who I am to stop her? Until then, I’ll just buy some ear plugs.