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woman playing the violin
More than Just a Violin Lesson

As I type this, my heart is still working on finding its shape after being completely melted.  My ears genuinely heard my 6 year old son say, “Mom, tonight when I was taking my shower, I turned the fan off so I could hear your beautiful violin music.” I asked him if he wanted to snap a quick picture for me so I would remember that moment and he took this picture.  

jeulie playing the violin

When I look at this image I can simultaneously see it from my perspective and his: my vulnerability and imperfections vs. his perspective of the beauty in the present moment.  

The truth is, I’ve been playing violin for almost 9 months and I barely know 3 songs.  Jonah (my son) is the only person to ever consider my “violin music” beautiful - except… me.  No matter how many squeaks or missed notes I notice, I genuinely love the sound of this instrument in my own hands, and his affirmation means the world to me!  

Besides becoming a mother, I can’t think of anything else I’ve ever done that is more humbling than learning to play the violin at 38 years old. 

Last year, my 8 year old announced that she wanted to learn the violin and I told her that ever since I was a kid I had always wanted to take violin lessons too.  She thought it would be really special to take lessons together so, for Christmas, we both received our rented violins and a semester of lessons. In May, we decided we mutually loved learning this instrument and we love doing it together!  

Admittedly, when I signed up for the lessons and I saw that it included a weekly private lesson and a bi-weekly group lesson, I didn’t consider that I would be the oldest person in the group lesson by at least 30 years.  I also didn’t realize that each child in the class would have at least one parent in the room as an audience. 

Most students in the class are around 4 years old.  Some are still potty training. And most of them play with more fluidity than me! 

It took me a couple weeks, but I quickly decided to lean fully into the experience, no matter how ridiculous it felt.  When we’re told to put our violins down to practice our bow holds and bow movements by singing “Wheels on the Bus,” I sing along and “swish” my bow like the wipers on the bus.  And each week, as we drive home, I talk with my daughter about how sometimes I reference a kindergartener to make sure I’m playing the right note. But we also talk about how important it is to try our own best every day and how important it is to notice the ways we are improving compared to our own previous performance - not compared to others. 

It seems like each day she is more observant of social influences (ie: suddenly wears deodorant and wants to make sure there are no bumps in her ponytail, etc.).  As someone with plenty of practice prioritizing similar appearances, I can’t help but notice how empowered I feel now that I lean so hard into accepting mistakes!  I’m truly proud that I’m learning to be a pre-K musician, but I’m even more proud that I’m finally learning to relax my expectations of myself. And I’m thankful my daughter is a witness to that growth.   

After many weeks of trying to memorize “Lightly Row,” my daughter independently made it through the whole song!  I was so proud of her that I even texted our teacher to share the news.  The next day we had our group lesson and I was excited that she would be standing up with me to play the song when it was time.  But when our teacher said, “If you know ‘Lightly Row,’ stand in play position,” Elaina would not stand up.  I promised her that I was likely to make more mistakes than her no matter what (and I meant it!) but she stayed seated.  So only 3 of us stood to play and I, towering over a 5 year old and a 3 year old violinist, proudly did my best knowing I sounded the worst. 

When the song was over, I smiled with relief at Elaina and we promised to practice ‘Lightly Row’ more consistently before our next lesson.  Later she told me that she really regretted not standing with me to play, and she knows that next time she will.  

There are only so many times, as a mother, I can say to my kids, “Just do your best - whatever that is.”  The most beautiful music I’m really making throughout this process is showing them instead.  

About the Author: Julie Long has been a proud Memphian for over a decade.  She currently lives in Midtown with her husband and their 3 beautiful, creative kids.  She works as a Service Learning Coordinator for Compass Community Schools and is always looking for new ways to engage her students and her family in service to our great city.  She is passionate about her faith, traveling, and finding joy in each day.

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