“5-year-olds playing violin, and other obvious examples of child abuse”

“The show was cute, but I was suddenly reminded of the performing animals at the Circus and wondered how long it had taken to etch the frozen smiles onto these young faces. We saw 5-year-olds playing violin, and other obvious examples of child abuse.”

I saw this quote last fall on a page about North Korea (scroll down to Suffer the Little Children). It has haunted me. Since I studied the violin from age five, it had just never even occured to me that teaching young children to play could be seen as a form of child abuse! I loved it. And my students love it. At least … I think they do… What do you think about this? Please tell me the truth.



Filed under Teaching, violin

13 responses to ““5-year-olds playing violin, and other obvious examples of child abuse”

  1. I don’t see how playing the violin could be seen as an “obvious” form of child abuse. Certainly it is possible that the children were coerced into playing violin when they didn’t want to. It’s even possible that these people saw these children playing rather robotically, without much passion. But evidence of the latter does not necessarily prove an instance of the former.

  2. Well said. 🙂 Still, even the idea had never occured to me! Insinctively I always make certain that my students really want to play and I wait until they are practically (or even literally) begging for lessons. One little girl cried, she wanted to play so much! It’s a touchy subject – lots of emotion. It’s hard, playing the violin is hard~ but children can do it and do it well. The students who only practice violin and have no outside interests worry me the most. A month ago I assigned mandatory “goof off” time to one poor student who was doing well, but obviously needed some more “kid time”. Daydreaming etc. it crucial for childhood (and adulthood) I believe.

  3. I used to teach at a community music school, where I would often have students whom it was very evident that the parents pushed their children to have lessons, and the kids had no desire to be there. When that was the case, I tried to make their lessons as interesting as possible, and inevitably I think they got something out of it. But if the student was clearly not making the best out of the situation and told me s/he had other interests, I didn’t hesitate to tell the parents that their time and money towards lessons were better spent in other things.

  4. Absolutely! And sometimes we have to be very tuned in to the students in order to discern what’s really going on (especially with Suzuki Method since the parent is always there and the child often has an overwhelming desire to please the parent). It needs to be the child’s idea in the first place. I have a new student coming today and I plan to find out quite clearly whose idea this was!

  5. (You might enjoy a conversation we’re having about Nick over in Violinists in LJ comment section…)

  6. heh. All those descriptions fit Nick perfectly. He hasn’t been around lately– I see his sister Yumi more often these days.

  7. How is the glorious cellist Yumi and what is she up to these days? (I always think of how her name means “bow”) 🙂

  8. She seems well– she’s currently acting associate principal in the Philadelphia Orchestra.

  9. Holy Philly Cheese Steak on Sourdough – there she is! Fantabuloso! Good on her! (I’m in a weird mood this mornin’)

    How respectable of her! Thanks for telling me Yoko!

  10. That’s kind of like saying that 5-year-olds playing soccer or swimming on a swim team is child abuse. Silly.

  11. Yeah, but it still bothered me when I read it. Just the idea that it could be abuse struck a nerve. I asked my new student a few days ago several times if he really wanted to play and he assured me over and over that he did. So I believe him. And I will do my utmost to make sure that it is never even close to abusive. 🙂

  12. All these years later, I’m not sure it was the best investment of effort, time, or money. But I’m absolutely sure that I was far from an “ideal” Suzuki mama 🙂

  13. Ms. Cynthia

    I was reading the story in context and I can understand how the writers might get that impression if they were unfamiliar with Korean Culture. One might think that all that structure was unique to North Korean society.

    I suspect that these were authentically happy children. They were most like ly the children of privelege from elite families who have no idea about the hunger and starvation going on in their own country. If you do live in a society that is so very repressive and sensored the opportunity to participate in the arts is a rare and wonderful opportunity to express your self. I am sure they were able to find children who truely experienced the violin as an emotional refuge for creativity and self expression.

    I don’t think the children chosen for these presentations would have been those who were struggling with commitment to practicing and performing. Their teachers would not risk putting a child who was not authentically pleased about performing in such a high profile situation.

    Culturally Asian children smile for reasons that are mystifying to Westerners. It can be their reaction to nervousness or shyness not just to happiness. I would think that the vunerablility of being on stage would provoke such a defensive grin on sheer impulse.