A question I get asked a lot from you guys is “how did Christian get started in violin?” So I decided to do a little post that tells you the whole back story and where we are now.
Every Christmas, one of TJ’s aunt & uncle throws a big family brunch. This couple is very big into the arts throughout Dallas and this past year they had the string quartet from the Dallas orchestra playing at the brunch.
I would love to say that the minute Christian saw the string quartet it was love at first sight; however, it was not. He was definitely very interested in them from the second he saw them but he was also a little of scared of them and didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do. Fast forward 10 minutes and it was love. From that moment on he wanted nothing to do with the brunch and everything to do with the string quartet. He refused to leave the section they were playing in and it got to the point that we set up a chair in front of them and just let him stay there for as long as he liked – which was the entire time they played. Kid wouldn’t even sit at the brunch table to eat until they were done playing.
You can imagine how interesting of a sight it was. Here was this little boy, who hadn’t even turned 2 (his birthday was the next day), just absolutely enthralled by the music. He sat there intensely staring at everything that was happening and was so serious about the entire performance. I loved how interested he was in the music but had no plans past watching him enjoy the performance at this point.
Fast forward to us getting home from the brunch and Christian ran up to the playroom, grabbed his fake guitar and a drumstick put the guitar under his chin (like a violin) and started playing using his drumstick as his bow. He looked at me with this big grin and said “look mommy, just like the people.” He was hooked.
Again, he only 2 years old and I had no familiarity with the violin so I thought nothing of it. I assumed it was a fascination that would fade over time; however, he kept proving me wrong. Every day he would ask to see videos of ‘the band.’ If he asked for a ‘small band’ that meant he wanted to watch some YouTube videos of a string quartet and if he asked for a ‘big band’ that meant he wanted to watch the full orchestra. Every day this happened and to this day he will still ask to watch the videos about once a week.
I played the piano growing up, but back then most teachers required you be about 5 or 6 before they would give lessons as they wanted your hands to be large enough for the keys. I assumed a similar rule was probably in place for the violin but would soon find out I was wrong.
About a month had passed from the initial brunch and Christian was very much still into the violin. We were still watching videos and since he was still using his guitar as a violin, I had bought him a fake violin to play with instead. I used this as his potty training gift and he was, and still is, obsessed with it.
My mom had called and asked if I would like to go get a massage with her at the spa she frequented, and as someone who loves a good massage there was no way I was going to turn this invitation down. I was laying in the room when my masseuse walked in. A little bit into the massage we started talking and she asked why I had come and what I had hoped to get out of the massage. I told her I had two young boys so really just wanted some relaxation. She informed me she also had boys and her oldest was at SMU on a full scholarship for the violin (talk about fate). Immediately I was intrigued and started asking how old her son was when he got started playing violin. I assumed she would have said around 5 or 6 so you could imagine my shock when she said 3.
I, of course, started asking a ton of questions and how she best explained it to me was that playing the violin required a lot of fundamental techniques and training and it was like learning a second language. The younger you can start teaching the child, the easier it is for them to pick up playing the violin.
In my mind I made a mental note to start looking up violin studios around Dallas to see if Christian could start learning to play anywhere, when she then let me know that her son actually taught young kids – kids as young as 3.
Now Christian had just turned 2 but I took my chance and asked her for her son’s number. I figured I would have him come to the house to meet Christian and let them both feel each other out. If he felt that Christian was ready and willing to learn we would start lessons and if he suggested we wait till he turned closer to 3 then we would wait. On the flip side I also wanted to make sure that Christian liked him and would want to learn from him.
It is crazy to think that had I not gone with my mom to get a massage, Christian probably wouldn’t be playing the violin right now. Considering how much I usually like to research you would have thought I would have found all this information out on my own, but I really just assumed that there would be no reason to start him in the violin earlier than 5 since that is what I grew up knowing.
The very next week, Mr. Jonathon was at the house to meet Christian to see if this whole violin lesson idea was really a good one. It didn’t start out great, mostly because Christian doesn’t love meeting new people. Thankfully, Mr. Jonathon was absolutely amazing and had Christian warming up to him in no time. I sat with them for the 30 minute introduction lesson and much to my surprise he was focused and engaged the entire 30 minutes. In fact, he was even a little sad when Mr. Jonathon left. Since Christian did so well during the first lesson we decided to move ahead and start weekly lessons. We have been doing weekly lessons ever since.
In the beginning lessons I would have to sit in the room the entire time with Christian as he didn’t want me out of his sight. Also, if Mr. Jonathon corrected him he would go introverted and would want to snuggle with mommy. As he became more confident with Christian, I began to leave the lessons until I no longer needed to be there. This also allowed Christian to become more comfortable with being corrected by Mr. Jonathon on his own. At the end of lesson I always join for Mr. Jonathon to go over what Christian worked on during the lesson and what we should try to work on or practice during the week.
With our summer teacher, Mr. Rigo, I sit in the room the entire time. Since Christian had a couple month’s of lessons under his belt he is still very focused and engaged during the lesson regardless if I am in the room or not. Even when being corrected he will stay focused on the teacher and for the most part won’t run over to me. There definitely our those moments when he wants to come hang out by mommy, but a quick “go listen to Mr. Rigo” usually has him running back over and paying attention.
So far the violin lessons have been a huge success, but I always make sure that both Christian and his teacher know this is being done for fun. Right now I want to nurture Christian’s love that he has for the violin (and music) without pressuring or pushing him away from it. With this we have a couple rules:
When he wants to practice, we practice, but if I ask him if he wants to practice and he says no, well then we don’t practice that day. If I’m being 110% honest with you guys we usually don’t practice during the week. Christian does amazing in a teacher (coach) / student environment. He is engaged and when they correct him he is totally fine with it and listens and tries to fix what they are saying. When mommy is the one correcting it doesn’t go so great. If I try to correct him, exactly like his teacher or coach, it is usually met with “no mommy, I’m all done” and then we move on. I’m told by his teachers this is very normal for kids his age but it also makes trying to practice very difficult if not impossible – so we don’t.
The lessons last for as long as Christian is enjoying the 30 minute lesson. He is 2 and let’s be honest there are going to be good days and bad. When he is having a bad day, we try to calm him down and bring him back into enjoying the lesson, but if he just isn’t having it then we stop the lesson.
We do violin class one day a week for a thirty minute class. We originally did classes with Mr. Jonathon who would come to our house for the weekly lesson. Unfortunately for us (but lucky for him), Mr. Jonathon was accepted to play with an orchestra in New York for the summer so we had to find a new teacher for the summer. We currently are doing our lessons through a program in Dallas called Love Nurtured Music with Mr. Rigo who is also a wonderful teacher and Christian has taken to him very well.
Mr. Rigo teaches uses the learning style called Suzuki which aims to create an environment for learning music which parallels the linguistic environment of acquiring a native language. Suzuki believes in repetition and sound rather than learning how to read the music in the beginning. Mr. Jonathon does not follow the Suzuki method and instead believes in learning how to read the music while learning how to play the violin. While both of their styles are very different they both are very strong in teaching the fundamental basics of how to hold both the violin and bow correctly, as well as body positioning and technique.
Mr. Rigo’s program during the summer, which we are apart of, is different than his program in the fall. During the fall you have 1 individual lesson and week in addition to 1 group lesson. There are also recitals that happen during the year and performances at various places such as a nursing home to gain practice in playing in front of people.
The cost of Mr. Jonathon vs. Mr. Rigo’s summer program is comparable; however, Mr. Rigo’s fall program is much more expensive since you are essentially paying for two classes a week vs. one.
I love both Mr. Jonathon and Mr. Rigo and think both of their teaching styles are beneficial in different ways. I decided that when Mr. Jonathon gets back from New York I will let Christian decide who he wants to continue teaching him.
When we first started lessons Christian was too small for even the smallest violin so we had to get a foam violin called a Foamalin for Christian to start with. He learned how to hold the violin properly and began working on holding the bow properly as well.
Now days he has a 1/32 violin that we rent from a company in Dallas since he will most likely grow out of it quickly. This way we are constantly able to change out the violin size as he grows without having to constantly buy a new violin that will then never be used again.
I am definitely thankful that I went to get that massage with my mom else I would have never been able to introduce Christian to Mr. Jonathon and Mr. Rigo and nurture his love of the violin. With that being said, if he wakes up tomorrow and decides that he hates the violin and doesn’t want to do it anymore we will stop. He is only 2.5 now and there is no reason to push him into doing something he doesn’t want to do.
If your child shows an interest in music I HIGHLY recommend trying to find an instructor that can help nurture that life. There are so many benefits of music that even if the interest only last a little bit it will be worth it in the long haul.
Benefits of Music:
Music ignites all areas of child development and skills for school readiness: intellectual, social and emotional, motor, language and overall literacy. Here are ten big ticket items that music is beneficial for:
Music increases toddler’s sensory development
Music can improve literacy and numeracy
Music is a mood lifter
Music helps toddlers build coordination
Music can help toddlers develop their vocabulary
Music can increase a child’s creativity
Music can help with memory
Music can improve a child’s understanding of mathematics.
Music can increase a child’s emotional intelligence
Music benefits the development of perceptual skills