“Now that you’re six,” I told E, “it’s time for you to really learn an instrument. Is there something you’d really like to learn?”
“Drums!” she shouted.
“No way.” Mr. December and I said at the same time. “Pick something else.”
Here I’ll interrupt the narrative to explain that E started learning violin pretty much from birth. She had her own solid wood violin to hold and play while her siblings practiced. She was just starting to play a real violin—and to complain about practicing—when I got my concussion. We shelved violin lessons after that and picked them up again in September 2019. I don’t think I have to tell you why the lessons stopped in March 2020. Anyhow, E’s been dead set against violin lessons since then.
I play six instruments, three of them reasonably well (guess which ones!): Voice (my major through high school and university,) guitar, piano, viola, violin and flute. I know from personal experience that people can feel very drawn to one instrument and thoroughly hate playing another; I hated piano lessons for the ten years I took them, but was immediately drawn to the violin and viola, which I could practice all day if my hands didn’t protest. That’s why I decided to give E a choice of instruments instead of forcing her to continue with violin. And now, back to the story.
“Oh, I know!” her face lit up, “flute! I love flute! I play it at Savta’s pool!” (She was talking about those bath toys that you fill with water to change the pitch. In case you didn’t know, it doesn’t matter how much water you put in. Invariably a small child will blow as hard as possible, which will always result in a loud screeching sound.)
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll see what we can do about getting you started on flute.” At that, E went into raptures.
I found an instrument designed for small kids as an introductory flute. It’s called a Toot, and after reading all the reviews and advertising copy, I decided to buy it along with the introductory music book. E got to choose her colour (black with blue keys). She was thrilled.
The following week I said, “I can’t wait til your flute arrives!”
“I don’t wanna play flute!” E declared crossly. “I HATE THE FLUTE!”
This is where I started channeling my inner 1950’s parent: “You’re going to learn flute, and you’re going to learn to like it, because I already ordered it, and paid for it, and it’s on its way to our house!”
The flute arrived yesterday. The moment I placed the package in E’s hand, she was excited. We took out the Toot and I showed her how to hold it and how to play the first three notes. She got it very quickly and started reading the songs in the book (graphic notation, not the type of sheet music you might be picturing.)
“I love this! I’m so good at it! Listen, everybody!”
All I wanted was to spent ten or fifteen minutes with the instrument and then put it away for another day, but E insisted on practicing for another half hour. This morning when I sat at the table to drink my coffee, I could hear E’s practice wafting in from the library.
Later in the morning I was working with K on some viola duets when N wandered in. We invited him to accompany us with a simple drone on the piano. E was next through the door, and she was very excited to be able to join us on her Toot.
It’s early days yet, and I’m sure she’ll resist practicing as soon as it gets difficult, but this week I’m just going to bask in the excited glow of a six-year-old falling in love with her first flute.