5,000 Hours

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Click to hear her play

 

Malcolm Gladwell estimates it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be world class at a skill. 

But a new study destroys that rule.

In any case, we’ve estimated that with regular practice, rehearsals, competitions and school orchestra, the girls have at least 5,000 of deliberate practice under their belt. 

In nearly nine years of playing, the girls have not once said they want to quit. I attribute that to the fact that they only play violin – they do not do any other extracurriculars. The upsides of “being good” at something are: self-confidence, self-discipline and optimism! 

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Click to hear her play

 

How to Avoid Letting Ego Ruin Your Night

We are at the Ikeda Theater, waiting to watch Itzhak Perlman. We’re in the nosebleeds section, despite paying several hundred dollars. But this is Perlman. You can’t put a price on this.
Who comes to sit right next to us, but the girl and the mom who were so rude during summer symphony camp! I had set some gifts for the teachers and a sweater on my seat and came back after lunch to find them removed. “Mrs. S.” was sitting in our seats, her tripod and fancy camera all set up to capture her princess in her quartet group.  She had placed my possessions in “lost and found.”

I was fuming.

And here we are now. It’s funny how feelings can come to surface again.

Deep breath. This pain is ego. You cannot fight ego by resisting it.

This is called “practice” or meditation. Be mindful. Be aware. And let it go.

People are talking while Mr. Perlman is playing. Let it go.
It is not always easy.

I’m sitting with my husband and my daughters  who are dressed in their finest clothes. They did their hair in fancy dos and they feel special because we are taking them out to see Itzhak Perlman.

I choose to enjoy the  evening, moment by moment.

Teens and Talent

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“I’m procrastinating,” my daughter said. She was just hanging out with me. With all her chores done, the last item on her list of “to dos” was to practice her violin.

“I don’t get it. You are so good at violin. You seem to enjoy it. Why do you always put it off?”

“I love playing. I don’t like practicing. It’s hard and it’s boring.”

“Well, it’s the practicing that makes us like listening to the playing.”

“You’re so mean,” she says as she opens her case.

 

The Practice

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One of the 5 ways to increase your grit is practice, practice, practice. By this, Angela Lee Duckworth means to practice deliberately. For example, let’s say you’re a musician. It might be tempting to play that piece that you know so well, the one everyone compliments you on. But you’re not going to get better by doing that. You need to practice that four octave scale you haven’t nailed yet. You need to go slowly, hit each not just right and start over when you get it wrong. Boring! Tedious! But so critical.

This is grit.

It’s hard and it’s boring and you need to do it every single day. You need to be consistent.

That is how you get better.

By the way, you can substitute anything for practicing violin: football, soccer, dance, writing, drawing, painting. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing extremely well.

 

 

 

 

 

“I’ll Cure You of Disease”

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The girls (13 and 14) have had their eyes glued to their iPhones. Literally, they can be on Instagram and chat for hours at a time. I get it: It’s 110 degrees outside and you can only swim in our pool for so long. And they are practicing their violins for 60 to 90 minutes each day. If I ask, they fold laundry, take out the garbage and vacuum. That still leaves many hours in the day. They can sit for that long, watching videos, reading other people’s feeds and chatting with friends. Josie is just getting into Pokemon and asks for us to drive her around. I refuse. We tried it last night and I guess the server crashed (?) So No Pokemon Go. I consider this THE disease of their generation: apathy brought on by technology.

Fed up, I took their phones last night. They squawked. And then they went to bed. With the phones in my room, they knew better than to reach for them in the morning. Ava swam 30 laps straight away. Then they made themselves some breakfast. And then I asked them to peel, core and cut up 7 large apples for our apple crisp. They did a beautiful job.  I had Josie organize photos and papers for me while Ava completed making the crisp. “What else, mom?” Fold some laundry.

The girls are into 21 Pilots. We marvel at how distinctly different each of their songs are. We could hear a bit of Bob Marley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, maybe even some Bob Dylan.

“I love how they create so many different sounding songs.” Ava said.

“Yeah, I imagine they listen to a wide range of artists and then are influenced by them. They study what they like. You know, Ava, you play a lot of classical music, but that doesn’t mean you have to only play classical. You can let 21 Pilots influence you too.”

Ava agreed.

“I’m going to compose this song House of Gold and make the harmony for Josie, too.”

While Josie did my makeup (she insisted, I capitulated), Ava listened to the recording and replayed it on her violin. Then she got the computer and re-created the notes on a music software program, MuseScore.

Josie swam 30 laps.

They practiced violin.

We went to Target and came home. They got to be on phones for a bit.

Ava resumed working on the song.

It was a fantastic day. Tyler Joseph cured the disease!

Meet Fear with Courage, Love and Art

Josie with her air violin
Josie with Her Air Violin

 

A few years ago, Josie and Ava were watching a Disney program. At 8 and 9, they were excited about a young, rising star named Christina Grimmie. Her love and talent of music fueled their desire to be musicians.

When Ms. Grimmie was shot to death, my daughters were devastated and in shock. Why? Why her? She was such a good person. 

There is no answer to this question. We keep asking this question and there is no satisfactory answer.

On the heels of this tragedy, another one occurred: 50 people killed in Orlando. Innocent young lives were taken by an armed and mentally deranged person.My girls were very quiet. “I’m so….sad,” Ava said before she fell asleep.

Two weeks ago, our neighbor across the street murdered his wife with a gun. To my children, it seems like guns are everywhere. We live in Arizona…America…so they are. Guns are everywhere.

I don’t want my children to grow up fearful and angry.

I don’t want my children to be victims of terror or violence.

I don’t want my children to be disgusted with their world.

Ava had decided months ago that every Monday during summer vacation, she would play her violin for the Alzheimer residents at a nearby facility. As I drove her and Josie to the center today, I told them that every person can only control how they act in this world. “You two are influencing your world for the better. You are spreading love and music to lonely people and you help them be happy. I’m very proud of you.”

They nodded silently.

Sometimes, the only answer to senseless violence is the persevering action of kindness. Love will always prevail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put That Thing Away!

Weeks ago, I came home from work to find my daughters completely immersed in “screen time.”

Screen time is commonly known as time spent on any electronic: TV, computers, tablets, hand held video games and even cell phones.

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At their most recent violin recital.

Josie, (aka Instagram Queen), was on my iPad scrolling and commenting on various pictures. Scroll, comment, scroll, comment. Ava was on her laptop watching YouTube videos of past and present winners of The Voice. They hardly looked up as I put my things away, changed my clothes and started dinner. I asked them how their day was, what happened in school…and they responded with grunts and monosyllabic answers: “Good, fine….” I noticed that I had to nudge and then nag them to practice violin, something they used to do more willingly.

So I made a decision. With husband’s agreement (it won’t work if only one parent is enforcing it), I decided to confiscate and hide all electronics until violin practice and homework had been completed. Do you know how hard it is to hide an 84″ flat screen TV?  It worked. Ava completed her homework and violin practice and then played catch with Opal in the street. Josie completed all of her work and then picked up dog poo from the backyard! They conversed with me and I learned that Ava is very fond of her new friends Lucy and Caroline at school and Josie is frustrated that her math went from an A to a B.

Ahhhhhh! I had my family back! It felt mean and terrible to do, but I’m their mother, not their friend. I cannot allow them to become Screen Time Zombies in lieu of communicative students and daughters. I encourage you to try this, at the very least, put pass codes on your devices (I did!)  and don’t allow them screen time until the work is done.