14 November 2014, by Tan Yi Lin
In my last entry, I wrote about how the girls are doing in childcare so far and in particular, Claire’s first taste of life in school.
These days, it’s not just the little ones who are having lessons. It’s back to school for mum too!
I’ve been learning how to play the cello! Exciting times, eh?
The cello? How on earth did this happen?
Okay, this isn’t a mid-life crisis happening here.
I shared in my earlier entries that we’ve been attending music class with Nurture With Love since June last year. Yes, we have been singing, dancing, tapping, clapping and stomping at 9am every Saturday morning for almost 1.5 years now! Can someone give me and Dannie a medal each in recognition of our patience and tenacity please!
To be honest, it isn’t all that bad. I enjoy every lesson and so do the girls (I’ll let Dannie speak for himself, haha). I love watching their progress week after week and the little accomplishments like confidently brandishing a single strike of the drum right on time, and meticulously playing each and every note on the glockenspiel in a scale. It may seem like nothing to an adult, but it takes an immense amount of concentration and control on the part of a child, not to mention a 3 and 1 year-old. You can see their faces practically light up and beam when they achieve something and hear their teachers and parents compliment them, “Good job!” and “Well done!”
Now, the skills detailed above are an indication that a child is ready to learn to play an instrument. I’ve been asking Coco whether she would like to learn how to play the piano or the cello, both of which are taught by her music teacher. Every time I asked, Coco would answer “BOTH! Piano AND cello!” While it is possible for a child to learn 2 musical instruments concurrently, it also means double the investment in terms of lesson time, practice time and of course, finances. It’s not a path that we would like to go down at the moment, so I chose cello lessons for her.
One reason why I picked the cello was that Coco is really pint-sized and cellos, unlike classical pianos, come in small sizes! She can literally grow with her cello as we swap in the small cellos for bigger ones in future. We are now sourcing for a cello that is 1/32nd of a full-sized cello. Imagine that – 1/32!
The second reason for picking the cello is that I can accompany her on the piano. It would be lovely if we could bond over music practice – hopefully it would make daily practice go more smoothly instead of me just bugging her to go practise on her own.
As I shared earlier, parental involvement is a critical component of the Suzuki method of learning music. To inspire and be able to guide our child in learning the instrument, parents first have to learn how to play it! I’ve been attending weekly lessons on Sunday afternoons as part of a 6-session parent education programme. The music teacher managed to get me a half-sized second-hand cello for $65 and I’m proud to say that I can play 2 short tunes and 5 variations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on cello after a couple of lessons. I admit that my playing doesn’t sound particularly melodious just yet but it still gets Coco excited when I whip (well, heave) out my cello for my nightly practice sessions. She remembers the sequence of the finger and bow exercises, and yells them out for me. In particular, she likes shouting out the names of the 4 strings in random order for my fingers to do their “acrobat jumps” over the A, D, G and C-strings – which explains the title of this entry J She even cheekily throws in a ‘B’ or ‘F’ now and then, and sniggers when I roll my eyes and exclaim, “There’s no B/F-string!”
Besides the practical aspect of learning how to play the instrument, the parent education sessions also cover the secret ingredients in guiding your child, along the philosophy of nurturing with love, in being a successful musician (not necessary one that goes on to play professionally – but one who has mastered the art of playing music.) I shan’t let you in on the secrets though, you have to attend the course and discover them for yourself.
To be honest, it isn’t easy setting a good example of daily practice when you’re so. damn. tired. after work and running around with 2 little kids when you get home. But I’ve found pleasure in being able to play better with each 10-minute session and it really helps when you have a supportive husband who makes it a point to be your adoring audience every night!
I also worry whether I can step up to be a good and patient home-teacher for the girls. After all, they would only spend 45 minutes with their music teacher each week and it’s up to me to guide them through their daily practice sessions at home. GULP.
In any case, let’s take this one step at a time. I’m really looking forward to presenting Coco with a cello for Christmas. After all, we’ve been telling her that mummy has been learning the cello first and because she has been a good student in music class, Teacher Yvette says that she’s ready to get her very own cello and to start cello lessons soon – just like mummy!
Let’s hope we find that 1/32nd soon!