This year's beginner violinists are busily working away with their lovingly crafted paper violins but what about those second year students that already have instruments? These young violinists and violists are progressing beautifully - demonstrating "5 star" bowhands, chasing the art of smooth bowing and relishing the challenges of finding notes with the left hand. It can be a daunting moment - suddenly, the scale of the journey ahead is being revealed and it can become a little overwhelming. Now more than ever, the new skills must be practiced in order to become natural. While our students never cease to inspire us with their progress, it is a good time to have a little extra help on hand. Last week, Newport String Project parents were invited to the MLK center to discuss the importance of practice. Using the metaphor of an iceberg, we talked about how students that show up at class reap the rewards at the "tip of the iceberg", but that access to the richest rewards of learning an instrument are "below sea level" and only come with consistent and healthy practice. We explored some strategies and discussed the challenges of already overstuffed family schedules. Still, it was an excellent first step in brainstorming ways to continue learning and ritual beyond the classroom.
After a nuts-and-bolts week of drilling skills with students and outlining practice strategies with parents, it was more than time to take a step back and remember the big picture... Fortunately, we had a visit from an extra special group of young musicians who could put the conversation into perspective.
On Monday, the students, families and friends of the Newport String Project gathered at the MLK Center for a community dinner. A wonderful feature of its community programming, the MLK Center regularly hosts community dinners and generously offered to host a dinner for families enrolled in the Newport String Project. As families sat down to delicious plates of pasta (thank you Chef Jamie!), it was a special treat to introduce a group of visitors from our parent organization Community MusicWorks in Providence. Longtime CMW parent/board member/volunteer extraordinaire Linda Daniels was on hand to share her perspectives on being the parent of a young musician. The centerpiece of the evening was a performance of a Telemann 4 Violin Concerto by Andrew, Alana, Heather and Jessenia - all members of Community MusicWorks' innovative Phase II teen youth leadership program. To witness this quartet in action of course demonstrated the importance of long-term commitment to learning an instrument, but it was also a beautiful reminder of the way that music is an oral tradition that can connect people from different communities.
Afterwards, our students were inevitably wowed by these cool teen violinists. Violinist Connor shook his head anticipating that it might take a long long time to get "that good". Another violinist Juan put down his cupcake and declared emphatically that the Telemann was "INCREDIBLE". We couldn't agree more!