A Lion Mom Roars: Two Determined Mothers Aim High for Their Children in Music, But in Different Ways

A few weeks ago, I took my 17-year-old daughter, Ariana, an accomplished viola player, to the East Coast to audition at top-tier conservatories. Auditions, of course, are important—where you go to college affects all of your life. At the first audition, waiting for her turn, I asked Ariana if she was nervous. “No, mom, I’m so excited to play with them!” She was happy, like Cinderella going to the ball.

It felt like the end of a long road and the beginning of a new one. When Ariana and her brother Zack were little, she suddenly became a single mother. I thought I would never be able to send them to college without scholarships. So I groomed them in something I, as a symphony violinist, knew very well: music. Zack started violin at six and Ariana at five (switched to viola in her teens). During those tough times, I sometimes sacrificed my utility bills in order to buy their tools and pay for their lessons.

The first piece on Ariana’s first college audition was Brahms’ Dramatic Sonata. I practically stuck my ear to the door. It seemed to me that she was expressing all the experiences of life which had brought her to this point; Great experiences like playing dates and sleeping with good friends, riding horses, playing in jazz and rock and roll bands. And there were echoes of tough experiences, too, like her parents’ divorce, moving across country, and school troubles as a teen.

When I walked out of the room, I could tell by her face that she had nailed it. The teacher, who was a judge, followed her out of the house, congratulated me, and said he would love to teach her.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that experience, because a lot of people have asked me about the “Mother of the Tiger” article. You may have read the article, by law professor Amy Chua, in the Wall Street Journal (January 8, 2011), titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” Chua outlines her approach to raising children, which she calls the “tiger” method, and compares it to the “Western” method. Her children were never allowed to sleep or play on dates. They were required to be the best student in their class and to play only the piano or violin for hours every day. Chua tells an anecdote about her 7-year-old daughter Lulu’s difficulty with a particular piano piece. Lulu gave up and left the piano. Her mother forced her back. This was followed by “hitting, crushing and kicking”. Shua cursed and threatened her daughter, not letting her go to the bathroom. After several hours—without dinner—Lulu finally played the piece properly.

My answer: Chua could have achieved the same results with no negative.

I know this because not only am I now the parent of three very musical children, but I also run a music school with hundreds of young clients. We look after students from the very beginning until they are good enough to join the Juilliard Program or any other top-tier music programme, if This is the direction they choose. So in our ambition for our children, I’m like Chua, who tried to get her daughter into the pre-college program at Juilliard.

But, admiration for Juilliard aside, my experience helping kids grow and thrive in music to reach greater heights couldn’t be more different than Chua’s.

Getting angry is easy

By letting herself get angry at her kids during rehearsals, Chua takes the easy way out. The violin is the hardest instrument a child can play. Upon seeing their children make mistakes, a parent’s anger can go from 0 to 100 in seconds. Sometimes I just want to jump inside my daughter’s little body and do it for her! Add to that the financial sacrifice—it’s no wonder parents are plagued with guilt.

I tell the parents that they are not alone in these feelings, and I offer them tools to reduce frustration and help the child progress. My positive rewards system includes lots of compliments and gifts, from puffy stickers and “silly band” wristbands, to cute Japanese erasers and plastic busts of great composers. We also offer dozens of ideas to help make the practice fun, or at least agreeable.

Solitary VS. ‘play with friends

Chua places a lot of emphasis on getting her kids to train for several hours – not just 1-2 hours, but 3 hours a day or more of solitary workouts, just with mom. That would be 21 hours a week (in addition to the lessons they attend). I’m like Chua, in that I insist on my kids exercising every day, and spending a lot of time each week. Some parents think I’m over the top. Add up the hours my 9-year-old daughter, Gina, spends with music and the cello—it comes to nearly 20 hours a week. But this is not a single training. Gina is in two of my music school’s orchestras. She plays in three quartets, with girls her age. Moreover, she has four cello lessons per week, a piano lesson, and a music theory class. I try to get her to practice on her own for an extra hour a day. (All of this isn’t as expensive or time-consuming as it sounds, because of course we own the music school which is Gina’s second home.)

A typical student in my program might take one or two lessons a week; Take part in one of our string quartets once a week, and play with one or two of our orchestras a week. It is also encouraged to exercise 45-90 minutes daily, depending on level and age. It can be an average of one hour a day, about 12 hours a week, compared to 21 hours for Chua children.

It is important to put the time into action. In the elementary through high school years, it is true that the kids who practice the most hours will have the most advanced technique, and they will get the first chairs. But when they get out into the real world, and start auditioning for conservatories, high-level orchestras, and competitions, the winners will be the players who not only master, but are also able to interpret a piece of music in a way that is unique to them, to a high level of music that just can’t come up with. except from diverse life experiences—including non-musical ones like play dates, sleepovers, and friendships.

Jenna gets to have a good time, rather than just “hanging out”. A significant proportion of the 21 hours, and 12 hours our most typical students spend, is in groups with their peers. In group play, students develop their music and other important skills such as listening, driving, and rhythm. It is also in group play that the child develops a sense of belonging that pushes him higher in music. They join a cool club with friendships, fun, snacks, trips to theme park music festivals, medals, pins and trophies, and above all, travel! Membership inspires them to practice – to reduce parental frustration.

Which raises another reason why the Tiger approach is counterproductive. Being a professional musician is a social profession. Success is making relationships and friends. If there is a good job, and there are two players to choose from, the person who gets along with everyone gets the job.

Choa appears to isolate her daughters. She describes her insistence that her child should be number one in almost any situation in school and music as “Chinese”. My point: In music, as in life, striving to be number one is a losing proposition. There will always be someone who plays better. Children must learn to cooperate in order to succeed.

Errors are a funny matter

After ten years of running a music school, we have learned that some parents must be separated from the student during lessons. I’ll teach the child how important it is to relax their upper body, and then the parent will chime in or even chime the child – “And don’t forget to push your arm in!” — which pretty much takes us back to square one with baby jitters. Authoritarian parents hinder a student’s progress.

Chua demands perfection from her daughters. I tell my students (and their parents) that it’s okay to make mistakes. There’s something I say often in class and orchestra, “I’m so glad you played that wrong, and now we can all learn!” My kids have made a lot of mistakes – big mistakes. Like the time Ariana forgot to tie her bow before a fancy party! Once again, she left mute on her violin throughout the performance! You bet she won’t do it again. We laughed after that, still chuckled.

When my kids fail, when they don’t get their first chair, I don’t take it personally. I know they will do better next time. They don’t need me to rub it.

After years of dealing with hundreds of parents, it is very clear to me that those who act like Chua have tied their self-esteem deeply to their children’s performance.

keep going

Besides being ambitious, there’s another area where Chua and I are alike: We’re both stubborn. If it’s a tiger’s mother, you can call me a lion’s mother. I agree with Chua’s position that if someone wants their child to become a skilled musician, they must be a parent who is very single, committed, push through the hard parts, and never give up. But parents must also learn to separate from the child, developing their own emotionally and spiritually. And parents do no It must take away a child’s precious childhood.

John Ratcliffe: China-Russia partnership should raise concerns for the US Previous post Space race: Chinese rocket launches quadruple over decade, survey finds
Explosion at R.M. Palmer Company chocolate factory in Pennsylvania Next post Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion kills seven after two more bodies found

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *