My Violin Virtuoso — From Verve to Vitriol

brown violin

Dear J my precious boy

First off, I’m sorry.

I had no idea you felt so much vitriol now for the violin.

Recently, when we broached the topic of you returning to violin lessons after a long break (to prepare for your PSLE), your almost knee-jerk reaction and rejection of the idea threw your mom and I for a loop!

You displayed such open vehemence with your violent retort: “I don’t want to! I HATE the violin!!”

At which point did this wondrous musical instrument start to revile you, even as your daily practice and play of it had revitalised your mom and I, your most devoted and loyal fans?

Were we so enthralled by your virtuoso we chose to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to your growing resentment of the violin?

There was a time…

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I still remember six years ago, you actually told your mom and I you wanted to learn the cello.

You were only six then!

We couldn’t help but wonder how on earth a kid, who barely reached my waist in height, would have such lofty musical ambitions?

Do you remember your reply? Probably not, but we did.

You said that you liked the tone of the instrument, the sound it made. Right there and then we felt such a rush of pride and joy as your parents. That you intuitively knew how to value a thing of beauty, even though it seemed like only the day before you had ditched your diapers!

Plus, it’s always been a secret wish of ours to build music into the lives of you and your brother. For we have always believed in the essential place of music in this world. How it brings colour and life to our souls, replenishing and filling our emotional tanks when the world gets too harsh and pragmatic.

So to hear you say you want to try the cello when you were still barely out of pre-school? It truly warmed our hearts beyond description.

But at that time, we realised it might have been a rather tall (pun fully intended) order for a six year old boy to tackle an instrument like the cello.

So instead we suggested as a compromise, the violin.

If nothing else, it was easier to find a bargain for a violin than it is for the far less common but more expensive cello. Same goes for seeking out a music teacher, especially one who lives near us. Much easier to find one who teaches the violin.

Those initial violin years…

brown framed eyeglasses on a calendar
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And so with that, the next six years saw you faithfully attending lesson after violin lesson.

After the first year, you switched from Teacher Gabriel (who went on to pursue music in the States) to Teacher Bing Ling. We were heartened to have such accomplished musicians coach you. We were also grateful for their confidence in your ability and talent, which to us became more and more evident as the years passed.

It inspired us to bring you to as many musical concerts and events as we could, even as we filled our homes with as much music as we could. I even restarted learning the piano, just so you wouldn’t feel alone.

In short, to inspire and motivate you.

Fast forward to mid 2021, and you had completed your Grade 7 practical exams, scoring yet another distinction! This happened less than two years after you skipped a grade when you scored equally well in your Grade 5 exams!

Imagine how proud we were, feeling in our hearts your mom and me, how “right” we were to keep you at it.

Much of the accolade goes to your mom during the early years when you struggled and resisted the routine but necessary daily practices.

I still recall the quarrels, tantrums and exasperation you both displayed to each other. I tried to do my bit, but it was really your mom’s dogged persistence that kept that chip, I mean violin on your shoulder.

Truth be told, there were many moments in those early violin years when I told her we should just let you give up.

Thankfully your sensible mom didn’t listen to your senseless dad!

Fast forward to…

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Yet fast forward to today and I can only look with consternation at the almost vitriolic vehemence you’ve shown when we broached the subject of returning to the violin after a three-month hiatus.

Looking back, I suppose I should have expected it.

Sure, you rarely looked like you were enjoying yourself when you did your daily 30-minute practice.

Sure, you were always fastidious about ensuring you practiced for exactly 30 minutes. Not a second more.

Yet oh how each time you sounded like such a maestro, teasing out many melodious moments from those strings and bow! I often had to stop myself from tearing up, so full was my heart at hearing your performance.

So I guess in the end it was my fault. I was too caught up with my own joie de vivre that I ignored your silent but now resounding plea.

To be released from the daily grind of touching this instrument of great music.

Saying goodbye is never an easy thing

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Now, your mom and I must learn to let go of our musical dreams for you.

Who knew this would happen so soon? I certainly didn’t, though your mom (always the practical and sensible one) took it well in the end, but not without putting her best foot forward to dissuade you from giving up.

After all, bless her heart, she put up with so much during those initial trying years to get you to practise.

I on the other hand fought hard to convince myself it’s not about me. It’s about seeing someone who clearly has the musical ear and the talent, not wanting to hone them and take a God-given ability as far as it could go.

And so my instinct of course was to insist you persevere.

But now I too must accept that it is what it is, though the very thought of removing the violin from our lives? It’s like saying goodbye to a dear, precious and constant friend; one we’ll never see again.

But learning the violin must be your call, not ours

brown string instrument selective focus photography
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Yet I must accept that this isn’t our choice to make. After all, you turn 13 in less than six months. We should give you the space and autonomy to make up your own mind.

Even as every fibre of our being screams to ask you not to quit it now!

For it isn’t just that you have only one grade more to go to ‘graduate’.

It’s about never again hearing in our home the haunting melodic strains of that bow and string. Strains that only you can turn into soaring tunes that expand our hearts and bring us close to tears.

Sorry. There I go on (and on) again.

It’s just, son, this isn’t easy for me. For us (your mom and I).

But we acknowledge that this has to be your call, not ours. I know we need to let it go.

Still. Would you maybe consider playing just once more? You know, for old time’s sake?

Thank you son.

Thank you for journeying this far.

Love you always!

Your Daddy Doofus

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