This year I've been teaching group violin lessons in an after-school program in the G__ elementary schools. It's the first year they've offered strings in that district, and my name got around and... I was asked to teach. I must admit that I initially accepted the job with a bit of trepidation - I had experience teaching private lessons, but I had never worked with five or six kids at a time. And so I've been a bit surprised to find that I absolutely love teaching the group lessons. I always find myself looking forward to seeing those kids on Thursday afternoons.
This Thursday evening we had our end-of-the-year recital. The program was a brief one, but as I told our little audience, hopefully next year's program will be twice as long - this year's students will continue into their second year, and I'll get a new group of beginners.
Our program consisted of:
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (main theme followed by "pepperoni pizza" rhythmic variation)
Merrily We Roll Along
Lightly Row (with harmony!)
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
Frere Jacques (a round)
Can-Can (with harmony)
Ode to Joy
Bile 'Em Cabbage Down
As FavoriteBoy can attest, I was really nervous about this program. After all, when I've prepared for my own recitals and performances, at least I can count on myself to practice and prepare. Of course, I had no ultimate control over whether these kids would even take their violins out of their cases the week of the concert. Thursday evening rolled around, and my kids showed up smartly dressed in black and white...for the most part. (Why is it that the few kids who don't own black pants will wait until the day of the concert to tell me... and even to tell their parents?)
They all arrived 45 minutes prior to concert time as scheduled, and I tuned violins while the kids warmed up. While I was tuning one violin, my attention was drawn to J_, J_, and I_ standing in a circle and playing Frere Jacques together, just for fun. I think that melted my music teacher heart.
We headed into the library (where the recital was held) and spent a few minutes running through pieces so the kids could get used to the wonderful piano accompaniment FavoriteBoy was so graciously providing for the evening. And when these kids lifted their violins under their chins and we began the first notes of Twinkle, I didn't see the stiff bowhold thumbs or the collapsed left hand wrists anymore. I just saw these wonderful, wonderful kids who have been such a joy to get to know all year, and to me the notes they were playing were quite possibly the most beautiful sounds in the world. My eyes filled with tears and all I could think was, I'm so proud. Sure, half of them barely ever practiced. And every week at least three kids forgot or lost their music books or shoulder rests, and I heard millions of excuses and even more wrong notes all year, but look at what they can do! They can play the violin. I taught them that. And there they were, looking at me with smiles because you know what? I didn't just teach them to play the violin -- I taught them to love to play the violin. And in light of that, those crooked bows didn't matter very much anymore.
So on Thursday night I realized that there are few sounds in the world more beautiful to me than the sound of lots of beginning violinists playing Twinkle together, and that was when I decided that I must be doing just the right thing for me to be doing right now. Because most people in the world find the squeaky sound of young violinists decidedly objectionable, and I find it brings tears to my eyes.
I think I love teaching.