Music Mom

Mom and me playing together

I don’t want this music to die. The older people are passing it on to the younger generation so the younger generation can pass it on to the next generation.
-Vy Higginsen

I hope that all of you moms enjoyed Mother’s Day this past weekend. As a mother of two young children myself, I am fascinated by the family life of composers. Frequently, I find it incredibly difficult to achieve work/life balance. However, I feel better knowing that even musical geniuses like Bach and Beethoven struggled with the same challenge.

A couple of years ago, my string quartet performed for a faculty chamber music recital, featuring Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Opus 18, No. 1. I know it’s cliché to name Beethoven as one of my favorite composers, but his works are such masterpieces it’s inevitable! I have always admired his courage and perseverance, in spite of the many obstacles he experienced. While preparing for that concert, I delved into his biography. Most people think of his deafness as his biggest obstacle, and rightly so. However, I was amazed to discover his perseverance to succeed in music in spite of his many family obligations and struggles. He was the child of an alcoholic wanna-be-singer, in this case his father, and from a young age he had to help support the family. This included helping raise his two younger brothers, since his mother had died at an early age. Later in life he even raised his nephew after the death of the child’s father. Beethoven took his child-rearing responsibilities seriously while still maintaining his musical responsibilities.

Now more than ever, parents struggle to juggle the responsibilities of childcare and homeschooling while also maintaining their professional obligations. As a result, I wanted to share a little comedy about the “real life,” of the parent musician, as well as some helpful survival tips!

Performing Christmas shows with my mom and sisters
  1. Prepare a cage you can crawl into to protect your amps, mics, pedals, music, instrument, and sanity from a busy two-year-old who would like nothing more than to literally push your buttons and “play” with your interesting “toys.”
  2. During rehearsal, if you enlist your colleague’s six-year-old to babysit, be prepared for elaborate artwork to appear all over your child’s face when the two-year-old finds a stray marker.
  3. Turn off movies about famous musicians’ lives before your child wakes up from the nap, as most of their stories seem to revolve around drug and alcohol abuse and promiscuity…
  4. Buy your child her own cheap violin so that she can imitate you, and hopefully not break your own instrument that’s worth more than your car.
  5. Start using your fortissimo voice if your child comes near your instrument.
  6. Have your child color on old sheets of music you no longer need, until he decides to color all over the score you are currently working on. Then resort to letting him watch his favorite cartoon while you finish your practice session. Your focus will hopefully improve (or possibly deteriorate) as you try to block out the distracting cartoon ditties from your ears.
  7. When you have exhausted all of your energy and resources, finally ask your spouse, significant other, friend, or anyone you can find to watch your child so that you can have a few minutes of focused practice time.
  8. In spite of all the craziness of raising children in your unconventional life as a musician, know that someday they may learn to appreciate the wonderful world of music you have given them, and wonder if maybe they, too, will pass on this crazy life to their own children.

I figure if Beethoven can do it, we can, too!