In life, there are many social events which are easier to attend if you don’t have to play the leading role—births, weddings, funerals, and music-student recitals. As a public service to parents about to attend their child’s first recital, I would like to offer a brief description of your duties.
- DO NOT BREATHE during your child’s performance.
- Mothers: fix your eyes on your child’s face and silently mouth each note. You lose points for wincing.
- Fathers: Make a microscopic study of the floor next to your feet. Try not to think of the 3,000 times you have heard the piece played perfectly by the same child who has stumbled three times in the first line.
I was forced to become a recital veteran because I let my daughter watch TV. When the three-year-old saw Itzhak Perlman play the violin on Sesame Street, she decide to become a violinist. I was still an amateur mother at that point. Not realizing that a week later she would again watch Sesame Street and decide to become ballerina, a rodeo trick-rider, and a six-foot yellow bird, I went out to buy a violin.
But before they would sell me the violin, I had to watch the propaganda film. This film followed an adorable little boy with a grandfatherly instructor. After ten minutes of instruction, he was playing Mozart solos. Of course, I bought the violin. And the film. And a new bow, metronome, and (pink) music stand.
We found a teacher and practiced regularly. Occasionally, the three-year-old would even join us. After about nine months, we were informed that she would offer her first recital. I pictured Mozart, Carnegie Hall, recording contracts, a radio broadcast at least…
Announcer: “We now take you to the high school gymnasium for the eagerly awaited debut of a remarkable young talent. Our soloist raises her bow and nods to her accompanist. The fight is on! In one corner you have Mozart’s classic opus, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’ The composer is the reigning champion, but rumor has it he’s been dead over 200 years.
In the other corner, the challenger: young, fearless, and armed with an eight-inch violin. Also in her corner: her parents, turning blue in the face, their arms twitching as she battles each succeeding note.
What a fight we’re seeing here today, ladies and gentlemen! The composer begs for mercy, but our soloist offers no quarter and takes no prisoners. Be sure to stay with us for the next event: the four-year-old class vs Beethoven.
We spent the next several years collecting yard-sale violins in graduated sizes. We even got a little cello in case Yo Yo Ma showed up on Sesame Street. The ready availability of these instruments should have left us suspicious.
About the time we completed our violin collection, two things happened.
- We moved to Illinois, bringing a crate the movers helpfully labeled “WHOLE MESS OF LIL FIDDLES“.
- I don’t know who was on Sesame Street that week, but my daughter decided her instrument was not the violin after all but the piano.
By this time, I had lost my amateur parental standing and had turned pro. So I knew I had the following choices:
- Response #1: “Don’t be silly. All little girls think they want a piano at age seven. Just like they all want a baby sister at eight, pierced ears at nine, a horse at ten, and Everyone Else’s Mother* at thirteen. *[She’s the one who says, “Here are your own credit cards so you won’t have to ask us everytime you want to buy a black leather bikini and spiked boots for the Sunday School picnic.”] And at sixteen, she wants Everyone Else’s Father**. **[He’s the one who says, “Here are the keys to your very own convertible. Be sure to get home before college.”]
- Response #2: “I’ve thought over Response #1 and decided to get you the piano because it’s the only thing on the list I won’t have to diaper, bandage, stable, or post bond for.”
- Response #3: “Actually, the truth is that you are the child of wealthy and beautiful movie stars who could have raised you like a princess. But they gave you to us to raise and there’s not a thing you can do about it. BwaHaHaHa…”