Wednesday, May 17, 2006

String me a quartet

I have come to the conclusion that I should consider myself very lucky with the education I had. I did O'and A'Levels which were testing in a time when the school, a former grammar school still held academic excellence as important, prefects as necessary, and a wider extra-curricular activity timetable as the norm.

The result was that I had a decent education, was kept in line by those above me, and enjoyed much in the way of activities within the school gates. Access to both sport and music was easy as rehearsals and practices took part over lunch-time or after school. We participated in inter-school sports competitions, local music competitions and international choir competitions.

Considering what schools have become now, I count my blessings that I had it so easy.

French schools have never offered much in the way of serious extra-curricular activities. If you want your child to do a sport you have to join a club on a Wednesday. It's the same for practically every other activity so Wednesdays can get to be very full indeed.

My son learns to play the violin with a local music club. He has an excellent teacher and enjoys his lessons greatly. However, he does no exams and there is no club orchestra or ensemble. There isn't even a choir. I was told that only the Conservatoire does exams, but that is in the middle of Montpellier and a devil to get to. He is never going to be Yehudi Menuhin so I'm not keen to spend hours in traffic jams just so he can do Grade 1. I find it strange that the club does not train up kids to specific levels which can then be tested, and that there is no communal group where they can see the point of learning an instrument. The violin teacher agrees with me, but she is a busy, professional musician, and cannot take on the work of organising any more than she is doing already.

Which leads me to my thought for the day. Maybe I should organise a little group of no more than 6 kids (I only have 6 chairs) who would like to play together once a month. I could send them the music, they could practice and then for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon play with other kids. Violin trios, or easy quartets. I'm sure there's a wealth of material out there, especially coming from the UK where ensemble work is more common. We could prepare 4-5 pieces and then hold a concert in someone's house at the end of the year for parents and hangers on.

If anyone local is reading this and has a kid who plays the violin, or who knows of someone who might be interested, do drop me a line. I may try and organise this for la Rentrée, but first see if there's any point by testing the waters.

The whole point of music is sharing and participating, and is especially fun with friends in a relaxed atmosphere. It's something kids don't really seem to experience in the system here, not early on anyway, which is discouraging. Maybe I can actually do something about this!

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