Today I had a violin lesson. I hemmed and hawed about it for a while, mostly because I wanted to go into my lesson and tell my instructor that I wanted her help on an entirely different song than what we’ve been working on, and I wasn’t sure how she would take it. She had very clearly defined her teaching style and plan to me in the first lesson and asked for my agreement.
I wondered to myself (And anyone else who would listen, poor J) if that was rude. Should I just go in and play what she wanted me to practice, and leave it at that? Would she be mad if I asked for help on something else knowing she doesn’t want me working on “something else”?
In the end I decided that since I do, in fact, pay for these lessons, even when I am not able to attend which happens regularly because of work, I should be able to make a request.
In order to make it easier for my instructor to accept that fact that I am good enough to work on something besides one of six Twinkle, Twinkle variations, I devised a plan.
Back in eighth grade my parents signed me up for summer French horn lessons, at the suggestion of the band instructors, who believed every single person needed summer lessons. Each lesson my instructor would tell me to warm up and he’d be right back. One week, after my warm up, he came charging back into the room declaring he was moving me to the highest level band because of a song I’d just played. It was a song I had practiced over and over, and without the added pressure of an instructor staring at me, I had nailed it.
I’ve been working on the next song in the lesson plan my violin instructor is following for a while now, even though I am supposed to be sticking to the assigned work and building skills. I can play it pretty ok for a beginner. I practiced it a lot this last week, along with my new song.
Today, when my instructor left the room, because I was five minutes early and she was heating up her lunch, I busted out my violin and played that song as well as I could.
“Listen to you!” She said when she came back into the room, “you sound great!”
“Just thought I’d warm up,” I said, all nonchalantly like that wasn’t my best performance of any song to date.
She set down her food and opened up my homework journal.
“WOW, you practiced a lot.”
“That’s because I’ve been working on something else, I MEAN, I still practiced what you gave me but I was also-”
“Are you working on Christmas songs?”
I might not have been the first person to ever do that, it occurred to me then.
“Yes,” I replied guiltily and pulled out my “Violin Christmas for Beginners” book.
“What even is that, can I see that?”
I handed her the book. “Just something I found on Amazon.”
She inspected my work. Because I am learning by ear, I am also learning by memory, and not reading music when I play what my instructor gives me. When I want to play other stuff, I go through the music and define what each note is, and then the fingering for that note. Each note in the piece ends up with a three digit code like “F 3D”. I figured my work was right because I’d know if I messed up “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as soon as I played it, but I waited somewhat nervously for her to review it just the same, breathing a sigh of relief when she declared it accurate.
“So, um, I was wondering if you would mind answering a few of my questions on this music- we don’t have to spend the whole time- but if you don’t mind…”
“Of course,” she answered, much to my relief, “I usually do have students pick Christmas songs and the only reason I didn’t with you is because you haven’t had that many lessons yet.” (TRANSLATION: You’re not ready)
She set my music book on the stand.
“But first I want to hear last week’s lesson.”
I’m not going to lie, I had kind of hoped to skip that part because my focus for the last week has definitely not been that.
I played it for her and she made me play it two more times and then once with her before she considered it good enough to look at my Christmas song.
She played “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” all the way through for me and it was BEAUTIFUL.
I was immediately depressed.
I played my pathetic sounding version and she coached me through it, saying things like, “That’s what you get for jumping ahead” when something was hard, which I found to be slightly passive aggressive. (GASP! She IS mad, I thought to myself) She had a chuckle when I said, “I’m not good at the swooshes.”
(“Swooshes,” she laughed, shaking her head.)
AND she assigned me “Hark the Herald Angels” for homework this week, which I had not anticipated. (WAIT THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE FOR FUN I wanted to say.)
Tonight, as I struggle with the music, all I can think is that it’s true what they say:
Be careful what you wish for because you might get it!!