I don’t want this music to die. The older people are passing it on to the younger generation so the younger generation can pass it on to the next generation.
This past month, I had the privilege of playing two exciting concerts of two distinct genres on two different violins in two separate states the same week. Needless to say, this required a lot of planning and practice! At the first concert, I enjoyed performing in Kansas City for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Third Thursday event, in which the museum showcased its newly renovated European wing, including the French Impressionist gallery. For this gig, I performed on my electric violin alongside my mother and sister Sheree. I loved having the opportunity to sing French songs by some of my favorite French artists, including French legend Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” To prepare for the gig, I watched old footage of the star performing her iconic work, noting everything from vocal inflections to wardrobe selections. I even watched Marion Cotillard’s brilliant performance of Piaf’s life in the movie La Vie En Rose. Poor Edith was raised in a brothel, having been abandoned by her alcoholic mother, who wanted to make it as a singer. Sadly, her parenting skills resembled those of her mother, abandoning her own daughter who ended up dying very young.
For the second concert, I shifted from French pop to first violinist of my local quartet. We performed in a formal chamber recital, featuring Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Opus 18, No. 1. I know it’s cliché to name Beethoven as one of my favorite composers, but his works are such masterpieces it is impossible not to! I have always admired his courage and perseverance, in spite of his many obstacles. While preparing for this concert, I delved a little into his life as well. Most people think of his deafness as his biggest obstacle, and rightly so. However, I was amazed to discover his perseverance to succeed in music in spite of his many family obligations and struggles. Like Edith, he was the child of an alcoholic wanna-be-singer, in this case his father, and from a young age he had to help support the family. This included helping raise his two younger brothers, since his mother had died at an early age. Later in life he even raised his nephew after the death of the child’s father. Beethoven took his child-rearing responsibilities seriously, while still maintaining his musical responsibilities.
As a mother of a budding two-year-old, I am fascinated by the family life of the artists whose works I perform. I feel better knowing that even the genius Beethoven himself had to balance his family and work life! Having needed to practice a lot this past month to prepare for these gigs, I had to figure out how to pull this off with a two-year-old in tow. That said, I this month I digress into a musician mommy blog to give a behind the scenes glance at the real life of the parent musician, as well as some helpful tips!
Prepare a cage you can crawl into to protect your amps, mics, pedals, music, instrument, and sanity from a busy two-year-old who would like nothing more than to literally push your buttons and “play” with your interesting “toys.”
During rehearsal, if you enlist your colleague’s six-year-old to babysit, be prepared for elaborate artwork to appear all over your child’s face when the two-year-old finds a stray marker.
Turn off movies about famous musicians’ lives before your child wakes up from the nap, as most of their stories seem to revolve around drug and alcohol abuse and promiscuity…
Buy your child her own cheap violin so that she can imitate you, and hopefully not break your own instrument that’s worth more than your car.
Start using your fortissimo voice if your child comes near your instrument.
Have your child color on old sheets of music you no longer need, until he decides to color all over the score you are currently working on. Then resort to letting him watch his favorite cartoon while you finish your practice session. Your focus will hopefully improve (or possibly deteriorate) as you try to block out the distracting cartoon ditties from your ears.
When you have exhausted all of your energy and resources, finally ask your spouse, significant other, friend, or anyone you can find to watch your child so that you can have a few minutes of focused practice time.
- In spite of all the craziness of raising children in your unconventional life as a musician, know that someday they may learn to appreciate the wonderful world of music you have given them, and wonder if maybe they, too, will pass on this crazy life to their own children.