A Battered Violin and How It Changed One Boy’s Life

cap-violin-cmyk-600In the arts, as in other fields, we speak of the concept of “flow.” Essentially, a state of flow occurs when an individual feels deeply passionate about their work, to the point of immersing themselves fully into the experience. When this occurs in the arts, time seems to be suspended, external sounds fade, and budding artists almost become one with their instruments, whether those “instruments” are violins, paintbrushes or scripts.
We see this happen time and time again at the Cathedral Arts Project, where we are working to make sure every child in Northeast Florida has access to an arts-rich education. There are few events more gratifying than watching what happens when a child discovers a passion for dance, music, theatre or the visual arts.
To give you an idea about how this enthusiasm develops, I’d like to share a story about one of our students, Isaiah, and his violin. Recently, we received a letter from Isaiah’s grandfather, John, who has been raising him since his mother’s death. John writes about Isaiah’s excitement following his first afterschool class with the Cathedral Arts Project and his own skepticism about the potential of a dented violin whose best days appeared to be behind it:
“When he brought that old, badly worn violin home on his first day, he was beaming with pride. He gently took it out of the scuffed and dented case and told me, ‘Look Pap-pap! I got the most beautiful violin in the whole class.’
“At the time, I agreed with him and tried to share his enthusiasm. But honestly, I really couldn’t understand how he was able to view this instrument so differently from the way I saw it.”
“The beauty he found in his instrument didn’t come from its physical appearance,” he continues, “it came from Isaiah’s belief in the potential that small violin had to create real music. He instinctively knew he was going to be able to participate in the creation of something very beautiful and enriching for all those who would listen to him play. He knew he’d found something to help others feel the same way he felt about the symphony he was making with that battered little violin.
“And as he briefly played it for me that first day, he asked me, ‘Can you hear it Pap-pap? It sounds better than any other violin in the class.’”
John concludes his letter by adding, “In his eyes, Isaiah’s finally become the ‘best’ at something. He loves your classes and he loves that old dented and beat up little violin.”
As you can see, that worn and battered violin wasn’t just a block of wood and strings to Isaiah. Instead, it was the most beautiful instrument in the world – one capable of transforming him into a passionate and enthusiastic developing artist.
At the Cathedral Arts Project, we feel strongly that every child needs as many opportunities as possible to discover what strikes a chord in them. Then, once they’ve found their passion, they need the opportunity, the time, and the encouragement to develop their skills.
As any artist can tell you, mastering any art form is hard work. There’s nothing magical or easy about it. The myth that all artists are born with natural talent and that it comes easily is one that needs to be dispelled. Yes, children need the opportunity to discover their passions; however, once they’ve done so, they then need to practice and continually hone their craft. Oftentimes that means persisting in the face of challenges – overcoming the difficulties in learning that Mozart concerto or transitioning to pointe shoes in ballet.
It is this hard work that helps prepare them to become successful, happy adults. For instance, research shows that arts education improves children’s lives on virtually every measure. Students who receive training in the arts have better academic results and higher graduation rates, score higher on critical thinking tests and are generally more engaged in school and their community.
Additionally, the arts give children the opportunity to let their creativity flourish. Studies show that creative thinking, problem solving, imagination and that all important “flow” I discussed earlier grow as a result of arts education. In essence, exposure to the arts fosters ingenuity and innovation.
Does this “magic” occur the first time a child picks up a battered violin? It did in Isaiah’s case. However, for most children, it takes a series of false starts to discover what makes their hearts sing. Consider famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Initially, he started with the violin and absolutely hated it. Fortunately, he kept trying, working through the piano and viola before discovering the cello. He has been making music ever since.
Every child deserves as many opportunities as it takes for them to encounter that destiny, to find what touches their soul, to discover what makes them come alive and ignites their creativity. Imagine a world where Yo-Yo Ma’s parents gave up on his musical interests after he hated the violin and he never had the opportunity to try cello. Imagine what we would have missed.
At the Cathedral Arts Project, we want all children to have the chance to explore and study the arts. As Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” We view our mission similarly. Each child has an artist within; it’s our job to inspire them and unleash their creative spirits. In doing so, we help them reach below the surface and find the beauty that lies within. Just like Isaiah did with his violin.
For more information, please visit capkids.org or email The Rev. Kimberly L. Hyatt, CEO at khyatt@capkids.org.

Read MoreArticle written by Kimberly L. Hyatt

Author: Arbus

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