When my parents started my brother, sister and me in music lessons, the goal that they looked towards throughout the long, expensive investment was performance.
To have our name on a printed program. To have the lights trained on us. To have the audience’s conversations quieted as we walked on stage. These were the experiences that made their efforts feel worthwhile.
I am just back from a week’s vacation with my wife, Helen. Later today I’m going to see my now-elderly parents.
I’ll tell them how we spent the week in a cabin surrounded by several feet of snow near a fast-moving river. We ate delicious food, soaked in hot springs, played scrabble, read and walked. We spent hours in the snow-covered lodge near our cabin. The front doors opened into a large room with a piano encircled by musty, old couches.
I enjoy playing my violin when we travel. Sometimes we’ll be in an old church or a cathedral-like space and I’ll play the classical pieces I enjoy.
This space was different. The refuge-like nature of the room, the lumpy couches, the wood paneling, the noise from the nearby kitchen and the remarkable weather encouraged me to play Irish music.
Sometimes, I was on my own or Helen was nearby reading. Occasionally, people would hustle through through the front door, stomp the snow off their feet, look relieved to be out of the sub-freezing temperatures, notice the music and settle in for the next hour to listen.
One person told me she felt like she ‘stepped into a dream’ — a compliment I’ll relish for years to come.
This was not the outcome that my parents had in mind when they started me on the violin. It was not a performance. My name was not on a program. No lights were dimmed. Some people listened attentively while others chatted with the person next to them on the couch.
Yet, my parents will be so pleased to hear how much joy my violin brought me this past week. My mom, looking for some reassurance, will ask the question she always asks, “So you think it was a good thing that we had you learn the violin?”
I’ll tell her, for the thousandth time, that it was one of the best things they did for me.