[Today’s article “Parental Will Versus Childlike Inspiration to Practice Music” was written by contributor Brooks Hanes.]
We had been living there just a few months.
I creaked open the old door and walked into the hallway upstairs in our
two-story, Victorian era house built in 1900. I cracked a smile, thinking
of the privilege it was to be able to purchase this building crafted over
eleven decades ago—and call it our home.
The house and its sisters appeared to be plucked from a fairy tale then
delicately placed upon their hillside garden. She caught eyes from all
angles, unlike many of the houses born to less graceful mothers, made for
It’s an old-fashioned fable it seems, to let the eyes dwell on beauty. A
regular joe like me—frightened at power tools—can barely tell a factory
spindle from a master craftsman wood carving. But when the pieces come
together to frame a place such as this, it’s pause for anyone.
Now stealing the attention from eyes, to ears, and now echoing up the
steep stairway extending down before me, the sound of violin music reached
The day’s reward would be beauty. But not visual; audio.
Romanced by the violin’s sound mixed with natural reverb and delay of the
stairwell, my eardrums begged the thought: does the carpet on stairs need
to go? The battle between sight and sound was won quickly by the
shockwaves produced by this bomb: it was my son who was practicing the
My eleven-year-old son had picked up and practiced his violin without me
asking him, or setting a schedule. (A parental litmus test is as follows:
if one reads the former sentence without experiencing a slight incline in
heart rate, the reader might not be a parent.)
Quickly my mind raced like a hound to find the reason for his practicing.
The mechanism must not escape. Did Ethan pick up the violin at random? If
so, why? Did his mother scold him for not practicing as of late?
From that day I dove further into research about all my students over the
years. Some of those who performed well did not progress; and some who
performed poorly achieved more progress and success than could have been
dreamed by the casual audience member.
Game captured, my teeth locked, causality flowed freely. Captured in time
and space, the “why” was stripped bare, a feast for my inquiring mind.
(Digging deeply, my pen hit the paper and out came my first book, so
gushing was I to tell the story.)
The traditional pushing and shoving of parental wills versus the shielding
and defending of offspring survival just has not worked. Perhaps culture
has come too far past elementary respect, authority, and mantras such as,
“Do as you are told. You will practice violin 60 minutes each day before
Regardless of the outrage many against which many idealists cry revenge,
these changes in daily habit and modus operandi, have arrived. The
Victorian era is long gone, where a man with a violin is followed daily to
learn the life, not just the craft. Parents expect a teacher to create a
young violinist from a young person who sits under tutelage for thirty
minutes—just long enough for the siblings to gladly wait outside the
studio and watch one episode of their favorite show. Parents such as these
are not evil because of their mindset, but their mindset should be logged
A new era must be embraced, but if over its shoulder we cannot wink at the
old ways of mentorship and time investment, we have embraced wrongly.
The Victorian pretty ladies now hold in their arms a generation of parents
and children who demand screen time and must be enticed for the very first
time by the value of habit, routine, and focused work.
Perhaps he who cannot tell a factory spindle from a hand-crafted work of
art, is not only fooled, but a fool. Let us consider the sound of music
Brooks Hanes lives with his wife Jennifer and six children just southeast
of the trout-stocked Vermillion River in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. He
writes violin curriculum for www.ICanPlayViolin.com.