Three of my kids* are learning the violin in a small local studio. Their teacher also brings her students together to learn to play as a group, and several times a year takes them out to perform. Last Friday they played Christmas carols at a retirement home. Initially, they were not at all sure that it would be a fun thing to do. After all, some of the audience were likely to sleep right through it. My wife tried to tell them how much the retirees would enjoy it, and her words were more than backed up by the turnout and their response. The kids came away feeling like they had done something important for others (what parent doesn't want their kids to learn that one?), and their smiles told the story. They had already decided that they wanted to go back again, when an email from their teacher this morning blew them all away.
photo © 2008 Steve Snodgrass | more info (via: Wylio)
She related this story: In the home was a 101 year-old man, whom she met after the performance was over and all the kids had left. When young, he had played in the NYC philharmonic, but was called up in WWII. He traded his violin for a gun and joined the army. He fought on D-Day. After the battle he found some French musicians celebrating in the streets and they, seeing his interest, asked if he wanted to join in. They were so touched at his skill and grateful for his sacrifices, that one of them took him home and gave him a gift. It was an Italian violin, circa 1730, a classical masterpiece. He still has it in the retirement home, and still plays regularly. It's now worth $45,000. He brought it out for the teacher and played for her.
I've re-read the above several times, and it sounds like of those awful cheesy email chain letters. But, it's true. And the cool thing is that my kids got to cheer the hearts of some pretty lonely folks, and when they go back again, may get to see something that only a tiny handful of budding violinists ever do. What a way to have a life lesson taught. From not being sure about going, to realizing that the elderly are people too, and that some have pretty incredible stories to tell. It's always fantastic as a parent to see the registration of wonderment in you kids.
*full disclosure: I can take no credit for my kids talents and enthusiasm. As far as I can tell, despite being a descendant of J.S. Bach on my maternal grandmothers side, my genes are devoid of musical ability. I blame my wife.