Yesterday morning I had reason to go down to the arts wing of the school and while I was there, I heard a familiar sound. The beginning strings class was in session, and they were playing "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star."
I had a flash back in time. It really didn't seem that long ago that I heard a version of Twinkle by a beginning string player.
My kids didn't attend the independent school where I work; we are fortunate to live in a very good school district. Back in the mid-80s, the music department was trying out something new. They had always started instrumental classes in the fourth grade. And so many kids were interested in horns and drums that they were having difficulty filling the strings program. So they tried an experiment: They acquired a supply of cardboard violins of a small size and each third grade student was given a half-dozen lessons. The ones that showed promise brought home a note to that effect. Tom came home with a note "Please rent a viola." So off we went, not entirely sure what a viola was.
Joe and I appreciate music and subscribe to the Philadelphia Orchestra. The classical channel is our radio station of choice. Each of us studied an instrument as a child, but showed no particular aptitude and let it go.
Tom played that small-size viola through third grade. When it was time to return it to the supplier at the end of the year, he was genuinely unhappy. So we found him a nearby teacher, and then another as he made progress. We bought that viola and, later on, another. He was blessed to have good teachers who, for the most part, knew when it was time to refer him on to someone else. He was fortunate to have a wonderful string teacher in school who didn't argue for a minute when he was a senior and told her that he wanted to form a string quartet and would she please excuse the four of them from orchestra practice one day a week. He attended a camp where he learned about chamber music.
And he changed the culture of our family, because the year he began studying viola, Sherry saw what was going on and asked to play the flute. So I found out what Twinkle sounded like on a woodwind. And when his turn came along, Andrew picked up that small viola and we heard Twinkle yet again. They stayed with musical instruments all the way through public school, playing in the pit orchestra for the musical theatre productions and filling our autumn Saturday evenings with marching band competitions.
Andrew was finished with instrumental music after high school. Sherry continued with into college and met her husband in band camp there. Tom went studied viola performance in college and made his living as a musician in Manhattan for six years after graduation. He married a harpist that he met at a summer music festival.
Now Tom is a father. Nate is one week old and at present produces only vocal music. But it is just a matter of time, I believe, until Tom and Anastasia hear those first scratchy notes of Twinkle.
I wonder what the instrument will be.