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Happy Holidays!

Some of my devoted readers do not tire of reminding me to get to writing. Thank you! I officially decided to stop procrastinating. Just in time for the holidays! It’s been a long while since my last blog. Darn! May 31? Really? Time truly flies, it seems it was just yesterday! This piece (below) is so appropriate!



2023 will end very soon. It has been a very tough year in every sense for me. I’d like to devote this blog to my mom, who passed last January, and to all parents of little (and not so little) violinists in my studio.

 

Parents make sacrifices. You make kids practice. You help them deal with difficult material. You drive them to lessons, to ensemble practices, to recitals. You are being there for your kids every day and cheering at every performance. Over the years so many students quit playing their instrument, often because their parents simply haven’t the bandwidth; life can be so hectic that carving out the time is just too hard. But parents will often push themselves to find the space for ‘just one more thing’, and to them:  Tutti Bravi! It takes a lot!

 

When I was six, my mom quit her engineering job to take me to music school. We lived in a blue collar heavy suburb of Moscow. To get to school from home, we hopped on a bus to the subway station, took a 20 minute journey by train, trudged up about two hundred steps (no escalator in that old station to this day but I started running up in high school, always late!), and walked a final five minute stretch to the building. Good grief! Some kids had to change trains, not lucky us. The entire trip was 45-50 minutes one way. Mom accompanied me for three years, after that I made the trip on my own.



In front of my beloved school, September 1, 1974


In my school we had all general education and music classes at the same place. After group classes we would have private lessons twice a week and piano once a week. Usually, Mom would stay and wait, feed me, and then we’d go for a for a stroll on the days we stayed for lessons; she also took me to a violin tutor twice a week. Hiring a tutor was a common practice in those days, especially for non-musician parents, to make sure kids didn’t fall behind.

 

After the full day at school, I was supposed to catch up with homework and practice more at home. If I stopped, I’d immediately hear, “Keep playing! Better in tune! More rhythmic!” Mom had no clue what that meant, ha-ha-ha! She figured it couldn’t be wrong… the teacher said it in lesson, right? Oh, we both played a wicked game of deceit. I put a book over the music on my stand, and read and played whatever. Yep, many kids did that, I know that for a fact--we shared. Oh, yes, I also constantly walked while playing, and even danced at one point. Nope, I didn’t want to practice, it was a dreadful chore for me and a drag for Mom. I just wanted to have fun.



On vacation in Armenia in the summer of 1977


I am eternally grateful Mom didn’t let me quit violin. I really wanted to stop when I was ten. She just turned it all into a joke. And transferred me to another teacher. What do they say? If the patient is not improving, change the nurse? I was 12. After the teacher was changed, my family begged me to stop playing.

 

My family of four lived in a one-bedroom apartment. When I was in high school, we soundproofed the bedroom door, but our poor neighbors only had thin drywall as a barrier and “enjoyed” it all. I guess I was improving, since they eventually stopped complaining. Depending on the day’s schedule I would sometimes start playing at 7 am, but more often than not I liked to catch up by practicing later at night and be done by 11 pm.

 

Mom was always doing something in the kitchen, little radio was constantly on. When mom was happy, she would hum Armenian songs with a very high clean voice. “Mom, what are you singing?”  Back would come, “Your Grandma’s favorite tune.”


I've nearly reached her age in this photo


Thanks to the example of my mom’s patience and determination that I should be the best I could be, and know what it cost her in time, energy, and love, I understand very well if you feel overwhelmed. But… please, hold on!!! Your kids are simply golden! So much talent, perseverance, musicality, energy, interest! Despite all the homework, destractions, the challenges they face, and multitude of emotional issues; stick with them, you are the ones who “have their backs”, and one day they will thank you. But right now, it is my turn; I am truly blessed having your trust!

Thank you.

I am thankful for all of you! Happy, Happy Holidays!




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Michelle Gring
Michelle Gring
Dec 23, 2023

Beautiful post, wishing you a happy holiday!

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