teeny, tiny violins and a very bright young man

Today was a good day. There was lots to do, including getting together with some friends this evening to plan our spring travels. We talked, sipped wine, reminisced about past trips (we’ve previously done six trips to various European cities), and then got to the important stuff of deciding when and where we are off to this year. I know I’ll have a lot more to say about this as we get closer to the time, so I’ll move on to two other things about the day that made it rewarding.
This morning I went to Scrolls and Strings, the violin shop on Penn Ave., in West Reading. I had to pick up my violin which was there for repairs. Into the shop came a grandmother, a mother, and two little tykes, I’d say 2 and 4 years old. And they had an appointment to pick out violins for the little ones who are enrolled in a Suzuki program. The instruments are referred to as 1/32 and 1/64 of a regular violin size (a standard is about 23 inches long). Theirs are less than 12 inche–but hardly toys. The children were very excited, and I was excited for them, just thinking about the joys of making music that they will be exposed to at this very early age. And I was thinking about the fact that learning music in the formative years has been proven to improve cognitive skills, especially math ability. It was a sunny morning and for these little ones some additional light was coming into their world. They would be hearing the sound of a violin from the inside out.
And then I went on to do some tutoring at St. Gabriel’s Hall outside of King of Prussia, which is my usual Tuesday afternoon occupation. The young men there have not had sunny pasts; they are trying to prepare themselves for productive lives when most of what they have known was the inner-city street lives of drugs and deprivation. Usually I work with them in preparation for taking the GEDs, and often it is a struggle. The young man I worked with today has breezed through the GEDs and is working toward taking the SATs. It’s been more than half a century since I took the SATs, and much about the tests and the preparation for it has changed in that time. For an hour and a half we sat and poured over complex math solutions, sometimes I explained ideas to him, sometimes he was instructing me. Sound like fun? Sharing in his inquisitiveness and enthusiasm for new material was 90 minutes of pure joy. He’s eager for our next session, and so am I
It is so easy to be jaded about young people and the future, but today I looked into the eyes of three young people, and what I saw is a yearning to go places through learning, and it is a trip I won’t soon forget.

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