It’s 20 minutes after we’re supposed to have started, and there’s no instructor here. When you consider how rapidly a Suzuki lesson goes, I figured that didn’t bode well for today.
My son Peter and the other student in the class, Georgie, immediately start playing with each other while they wait.
Complicating matters is the fact that I have to leave early, so my wife has to bring our 2-year old along.
The instructor arrives. If she gives her name, I don’t catch it. She begins with the standard “get to know the instrument” demonstration.
The guitar is your friend. Will never fight with you or break up with you. When you’re happy, he’s with you. When you’re sad, he’s with you. But you have to be delicate.
Hmm… I’m not sure that my six-year-old son would understand the concept of “breaking up,” but otherwise the introduction is fine. The instructor shows the guitar’s head and neck, and asks the boys to show their own heads and necks. That’s working out well enough.
Since the boys have seen two other string instruments this week, Peter glances at the handout and shrugs. “You know what, I don’t even need to look at this to know what it is.”
But there are parts of a guitar that don’t correspond to other instruments. For instance, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a “tapping plate”.
Georgie recognizes the bridge, and sings a bit of the cello teacher’s “this is the bridge” melody. He starts tapping the guitar, which upsets Peter, but the instructor says that’s fine.
Now that Peter knows the instructor won’t get mad if he touches the guitar, he’s like a moth to a flame. The instructor keeps shifting it over a few inches, just out of his reach, and Peter keeps scooting after it.
When I leave, Peter and Georgie are learning the letters that go along with the fingers on their right hand — p, i m, a, e. I wonder what the letters stand for, and why there isn’t a mnemonic for it.
I give the camera to Leigh and head off to my meeting across town.
* * *
When I get home a couple hours later, Leigh is on the couch, reading books to Carolyn, and Peter is nowhere in sight. He’s in bed already.
Leigh tells me that the lesson was a disaster.
Peter was sticking out his tongue at everybody, shouting “blaah!” and “I don’t care!”. When Georgie decided that he would be a dog for the rest of the night, Peter chased him around and tried to knock down his imaginary doghouse.
According to Leigh, this is the worst she’s ever seen Peter act in public. (He can be stubborn and sullen, but I’ve really only seen him throw one honest-to-goodness temper-tantrum, and he was probably only two then. Now, he prefers to stew over a particular injustice, rather than lash out in general lamentations concerning the injustice of the universe, which is more Carolyn’s style.)
The previous lessons (in cello, piano, and violin) always seemed to teeter on the verge of chaos, but somehow managed to remain coherent. I think that after 20 minutes of playing with each other, George and Peter were too interested in each other to focus when the guitar finally arrived.
According to Georgie’s mom, Carolyn, whose presence we worried would be disruptive, was the only one good enough to deserve to play the instrument.