Monday, July 28, 2008


Over the years, through child-rearing and teaching violin, I've had to cultivate a new art form: Patience. It hasn't been easy, I'll admit. When I studied violin (back in the dark ages), and went to school, expectations were higher. Students didn't receive A's just by showing up to class; a great deal of effort went into pulling those top grades. As for music lessons, based on personal experience, there was no such thing as sandwich criticism. (I just learned that term: you begin with a positive statement, layer with a criticism, and then finish with another positive comment). My teachers didn't know from such a thing; they let it rip, and on numerous occasions I packed up the violin with tears streaming down my face. You think Jascha Heifetz made nice? Or David Nadien? Israel "Izzy" Baker sent me home mid-lesson to "clean out my ears" based on a Sevcik exercise. Henri Temianka, a disciple of Carl Flesch, spent nearly two hours with me on the first page of the Sibelius Concerto. These marvelous task masters tore me to shreds, and due to my respect for them as artists, I emerged less self-satisfied and hopefully, more critical of my own playing.

But I have to learn to play by today's reality. Every now and then, while teaching an under-rehearsed or ill prepared student, the severe task master in me yearns to let loose. How do I pacify that overly critical voice? I glance up at a photograph of my beautiful, late sister Karen in my teaching studio. The image of Karen, with her radiant smile, calms my spirit. Blessed with inborn patience, and a charismatic personality, Karen made the impossible seem possible. It was Karen who encouraged my daughter Sarah to take her first steps, and my daughter Anna to walk on a balance beam, even though Anna was, at first, mortified. And it was Karen who taught my second grade playmates, even the most fearful, to swim. Her zest for life and love of children worked magic.

Getting back to sandwich criticism: I'll bet if my sister had been a violin teacher, she'd have served the sandwich, tossed the middle, yet inspired a feast of learning.

Photo of Karen Leslie Rosen

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