Friday, May 27, 2011

Mind Games for Good

My daughter is a reasonably talented trumpet-player. Which is to say that she's not going to win any grammys or anything, but for a kid who's been playing for three years she's not awful. She recently played a solo of the Pink Panther at her school band concert (the only solo I can remember seeing in three years of band concerts that I've been attending), backed up by her teacher on trombone and another student on drums, and the accolades she got from the kids and their parents were terrific to hear.

But my daughter has a problem - she's just not self-motivated about... well, about much of anything, really. She'll do what I tell her to do under varying degrees of duress, but, for example, there is absolutely no chance that she would walk in and pick up her trumpet and practice it if I didn't insist. She never just goes in and plays the piano, either, despite being an even more talented pianist than she is a trumpet player. She'll sit for hours doing "crafts" like bead necklaces or friendship bracelets, which is fine, but getting her to spend time on music is a big challenge.

She actually learned the Pink Panther out of a book of sheet music we bought her two years ago. The idea was to give her something new and interesting to play over summer vacation, so she wouldn't get bored playing the same music she's been practicing throughout the school year. It didn't work too well - she's highly resistant to trying new things or figuring anything out on her own, so for that year the books of music mostly sat untouched.

The following year, however, she took them to school with her and asked her band director to help her figure out how to play them. She learned the Pink Panther and the main theme from The Lord of the Rings. And once she knew them, she'd practice them, but she never did try anything new.

Fast-forward to this school year, the end of which is fast approaching. As always, I suggested that she look ahead to summer break and think about learning to play some new music so she'll have something to practice that won't be too boring. The books we bought her have a couple dozen tunes in them, only a few of which she's played. No dice - once again, she's not interested in doing anything extra, even through we both know (well, I surely do, anyway) that by mid-July she'll be complaining loudly about being bored and soundly cursing her trumpet, her parents, and her sad, sad life.

But through a happy set of circumstances, I came up with a brilliant, devious plan. It started when I saw that had the music for Haydn's Tumpet Concerto. I decided to look it up on Youtube to gauge how hard it was, when I found a performance by Tine Thing Helseth. Now here's a few things to note about Tine Thing Helseth: She's a girl. She's a smokin' hot girl. And she plays the trumpet really, really well. "Hmmm," thought I. "Perhaps my daughter might find it inspiring to see a beautiful woman playing the trumpet incredibly well." Honestly, I have no idea how much a role the "beautiful" part might have played. It might have been just as impressive to my daughter if she'd been an old hag. But I couldn't wait to show it to her.

After school the other day, I called her over to the computer and played that video. My daughter, ever adept at grasping what might utterly elude others said something profound like, "Hey, she's a girl." I think she was just enchanted by the performance, though. She noted some of the more difficult aspects of the piece and was clearly impressed. I told her I could get she sheet music for her, and SHE suggested taking it in to school to have her teacher help her with it. I even found the music for Jar of Hearts, a silly pop tune she likes, and got her that as well. Summer is saved! I'm a damn genius!

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