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Making Musical Memories

Ann Rohner Callis | December 2012

    This past week I attended and participated in a special recital. Every year my daughters’ violin teacher organizes a family concert. Students play pieces in a variety of small groups with friends, siblings, and even parents. Instead of the usual formal solo works, they learn short duets, trios, and other ensemble music. Some years this performance has coincided with Christmas and been filled with carols and other holiday tunes. This year it fell in early November, and the music varied from Irish fiddle tunes to a father and son duet on a violin and a two-string Chinese instrument.
    Nearly everyone performed multiple pieces – some played one on the violin and the other on a band instrument or piano. My cellist son was drafted to join my older daughter and me on a trio of La Cinquantaine and then played a guitar accompaniment for his youngest sister and her two friends on an arrangement of Hunter’s Chorus. The evening ended with a senior student performing an advanced work by Saint-Saëns and a now adult former student (and uncle of a current one) returning to sing an opera aria (from his day job). All in all it was an evening of music, family, and fun.
    Before the concert began, the teacher commented that she always debates whether to put on this recital. It is a great deal of work finding appropriate arrangements and rehearsal time during the busy holiday season. Every year she decides to do it because it is a chance to create musical memories. Most of her students will not go on to play professionally, but she wants them to look back in 20 or 30 years and remember that special night when they played a duet with their mom or little brother.
    As group after group performed, some well and some stumbling through a few notes, her words struck a chord in me. Sharing music with each other and ourselves should be one of the most important parts of what we do. Too often we become caught up in perfecting every last note and forget the joy of creation.
    Think back to your most memorable performances as a student. What stands out? For me it may be the annual Winter Festivals held in the high school gym at which we always played selections from The Nutcracker or the time we played Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony with real candles on the music stands that we carefully snuffed out as we left. Outside of school, I remember having a wonderful time going Christmas caroling with family and friends each year, as I played on a metal violin, my brother on trombone (except when it was too cold and the slide stuck), and my father on trumpet.
    In the ongoing efforts to improve musical skills, achieve a perfect contest score, or perform an advanced piece, it is good to take the time to create memories and traditions – to share the love and even fun side of music with students, audiences, and even ourselves. So this holiday season, look for moments to pause and enjoy the sounds around you and find ways to create musical memories that will stay with your students long after they leave your ensemble.
– Ann Rohner Callis
Associate Publisher