Sunday, July 31, 2005


It was no surprise my youngest daughter Sarah put away her violin a year and two months ago, as she witnessed the pain and suffering her family was going through, and connected it to that instrument. Since she is one of the few blessed ones with music as her second nature, she merely switched over to singing, and to lesser extent, to the piano. A little while ago, when she realized that peace and harmony were returning to our lives, the violin came out again. She and I both wondered what it would be like after not touching it for so long. The first notes were perhaps a little tentative, and she thought remembering how to vibrate would be difficult. But in a couple minutes the violin that was made for me by a friend and a gifted Finnish violin maker, started singing more beautifully than ever. It was as if she had never put it down and practiced diligently during the hiatus of fourteen months. We all were amazed and delighted to no end. In the days since, we have played and played through numerous duets, something I fondly remember doing with my own dad, and worked on solo repertoire. There is this unique feeling of togetherness and closeness. I am often the one who begs to take a break due to my physical problems. The blisters on the 12-year-old’s fingertips no longer show up.

As a teacher I know how every student has his/her strong points and weak areas. That is why there can’t be a uniform approach to a teaching method. Some have fast fingers and formidable technique, but have trouble with one’s inner clock, our built-in metronome. Some others have trouble producing a beautiful sound or understanding a phrase. Concentrating on improving the weaker qualities, hopefully they all end up well rounded. Sarah is one of the few natural musicians that don’t really need teaching: with an immaculate ear she can correct the slightest error in intonation by herself, and she intuitively knows what a good sound is like, whether she is singing or playing. My wife and I now know that there will be a good home for our instruments after our lifetimes. Should our daughter become a professional musician? Hopefully she won’t. I would like her to play as well as the best of them, but she is too bright, happy and bubbling in every aspect of life to have it limited to such a narrow field, with somewhat questionable future.

It seems that learning to play is like biking: once you’ve mastered it, the skill will remain with you. This week there will be no duets as our baby is at Seattle Girls’ Choir camp. She just left this morning and I’m already anxiously awaiting her return.