Friday, March 10, 2017

Practice Makes Perfect

     Mercy worked for us as a mother's helper for 7 months last year. When I hired her, I knew she played violin, and once she got used to twin's routine, I asked her to teach Elisha violin during twin's nap time. Mercy herself was not a professional, advanced violinist. She was a 13-year-old home-schooled girl who used to take violin lessons at the public school she used to attend. She was barely intermediate level in violin. However, she gladly jumped into the quest of helping  Elisha become interested in playing violin.
     Initially, what made it work was that Elisha really enjoyed 'playing' with Mercy and that good rapport flew into 'playing with violin' part. Elisha did not fall in love with the violin from the beginning, though. She hated the 'squeaky' sound. She was frustrated she does not know how to play like the 'violinist'. However, once she was able to play the 'hot cross buns' all by herself, Elisha found playing violin more interesting. Elisha kept asking Mercy new piece of 'real' music almost every week, while CJ and I tried to start a routine for Elisha to practice on her own 15 minutes a day. When Mercy ran out of simple music pieces, I gave Elisha some from the hymn book.
     Due to the demand of her school work, Mercy left us at the end of the last December, but Elisha has kept on practicing almost everyday. In addition to the daily practice routine, what really has helped Elisha improve her violin sound is her innate competitiveness with herself. She is eager to produce 'beautiful' sound. If a note does not sound 'right', she gets frustrated. Many times, she would put down her violin and announce she would quit. However, the routine we had started kept us going despite all that falls and slips. After each song, she would ask me if that was good, if that was best for the day, if that was better than yesterday, if that was best ever. When she picks up her violin, I make sure I pay attention to her so that I can provide critique when asked for it.
     This week, I am so pleased to find that her violin sounds so beautiful. Elisha and I were even able to play 'Jesus Loves Me' duet - Elisha on violin, I on piano! Yet the best thing happened was when she said, 'I love playing violin now'! I could see that she is really gaining confidence and enjoying the fact that her violin finally sounds 'real'.
     This whole thing about violin was a kind of experiment for me. I wanted to see if she can learn to play violin WITHOUT a professional instructor. I wanted to see if 'practice can really make perfect'. In his 2008 book "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell wrote that "ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness." I do not think Elisha has put in ten thousand hours playing violin yet, but I can say with confidence that, from what we have witnessed, daily practice and grit has done much more than a skillful teacher could do.