This week is a big week for my daughter for several reasons, one of which is that she will play her first notes on the viola. She’s been attending Suzuki classes since the beginning of January and each week brings one private lesson (shared with another little girl), one group viola lesson, and one musicianship group. Quite a lot of lessons, so why, you might be wondering, has she not played a note yet? Half-way through the last lesson it all became blissfully clear.
She and her lesson partner are now handling their violas and bows comfortably, landing the correct part of the bow on the string, and then taking it off again. They’ve been told if their positioning is perfect next week they’ll be able to start playing. The two of them stood side-by-side, violas in position, teeny tiny bows resting on strings, quivering with barely contained excitement and exchanging conspiratorial glances. My daughter moved her bow a cm on her A-string and swung around wide-eyed to see my reaction. And suddenly, I could see all the benefits of the protracted process. It’s obviously important that they get the basics right from the start – and in the meantime, they’re also learning rhythms, getting to know the parts of the instrument and watching others play – but it has the desirable side-effect of building their anticipation to dizzying heights.
Watching two four-year-olds wriggle and giggle in their little chairs made me realise I could learn a lot from their attitude to music. The novelty of just making a sound with the instrument is still fresh and exciting to them, and it’s very sweet to watch.