Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Guest post: Memories of my mom, and why I'm in The Polyphonic Spree because of her.

When I was in college, I helped start a jazz ensemble for string players.  One of our members wasn't a string major - Sean was actually a percussion major (and an AWESOME one at that).  He'd played violin when he was younger and had migrated to drums and all that when he got older.  Sean is one of the best musicians I have ever known, and I'm lucky enough to have gotten to play with him for those few years.  He graduated from college with a performance degree in percussion his masters in sound design, and is also an amazing guitarist and arranger and all that - but never gave up playing the violin.  Last year he had the opportunity to join one of my favorite bands - the Polyphonic Spree as the violinist - and has been touring and recording with them like mad.  We're talking Africa, Korea, London - and I even got to see him in Chicago a few weeks ago!  I am insanely jealous of him, but since he's such a fabulous guy I let it slide :)

This last Mother's Day he wrote this amazing essay about his mom and violin lessons and it brought me to tears as a mother, teacher, musician and human being.  It was just so powerful that I go back to read it often to remind myself that it's okay - it's a bumpy road - but it's ultimately worth it.  He agreed to let me share it with you and I am so grateful he shared it with me.  Enjoy!

Memories of my mom, and why I'm in The Polyphonic Spree because of her.

(I know this is long, but I hope some of you read it. It's really hilarious and a tear-jerker, for me at least, especially if you're a parent, and even moreso a mother, thinking of raising musical children)

As some of you already know, I lost my mother Sharon Redman to breast cancer almost 7 years ago (this fact terrifies me. Years go by way too fast these days). She's missed a lot of major things that have happened in my life. Some I'm sad about, and some I don't mind that she didn't have to witness. But the hardest one is the fact that she never got to see me playing violin on stage for a living, the instrument that she started me on when I was 5. I think about her quite frequently at the beginning of our shows, especially when friends or other family come to see me, and I'm acutely aware of her absence in those moments. She would have just told me that we are way too loud, haha, but I know that she would have been extremely proud, and would have told all of her friends when I joined.

When I first got back to Texas last year to regroup and recover, I looked through a lot of old things, and found some amazing stuff she had written, that made me laugh really hard, and cry even harder. She had an awesome ironic sense of humor. This is something I found that she wrote about raising my brother Robert and I to play the violin in the Suzuki program (where mothers come to the lessons with their very young children and learn the instrument with them to encourage/help them), but please forgive us for our bratty or childishly arrogant moments. We were kids after all, haha. I don't know how she put up with us sometimes, and the last paragraph breaks my heart a little that she had to suffer so much motherly doubt (as all mothers do I suppose) in herself and the job she was doing raising us. I would apologize to her a million times if I could.

I think she knew that she succeeded though in raising us right, probably beyond her expectations, although I wish I could tell her and show her that now, with how my life has changed after joining the Spree. And if she had listened to me and let me quit when I was being a little butthole, I wouldn't have performed in London last year, and gone to Uganda this year, and wouldn't be playing for thousands at festivals in Australia, South Korea, France, the UK, and possibly more this Summer. So thank you Mom. Thanks for not giving up on me and for everything that you did to bring music into our lives.

She also sang to and with me constantly growing up, so if any of you like my singing voice, she's probably responsible for that too. So here it is, Sharon Redman's reflections on Robert and Sean. (Most people reading this could probably guess which one I am, but I'm the baby of the family, and Robert is 2 years older.)

(Reflections while driving to yet another music lesson, listening to squabbling in the back, wondering how I had got through 10 years of music activity)

Once there were two little boys who thought they might like to play the violin. And one said (after three lessons), "This is too hard, we're going to quit, aren't we?" (But we had already paid....)

And the younger one said, "I might as well play violin too, we have one the right size." And the older one said, "I LIKE these songs, I can't WAIT 'til I get to Bouree! Come show me how to play the next song."

(And his mother never forgot he said that.)

The younger one said, "I'll play until I catch up with my brother, and then I'll quit."

The older one said, "How many books are there anyway? That's too many. I guess I'll just finish Book 5 before I quit. That's a good stopping spot." (But he forgot.) Instead, he said, "Mom, that little girl is younger than me and she can play more songs. I have to catch up!"

When congratulated on finishing Book One, the younger one was startled to tears and shouted, "But I didn't WANT to!" (He was only 5 and hadn't realized how much he had learned.)

Once, at a Suzuki Institute, the older one ran to me shouting, "Quick, I have to learn Minunet in G. They're playing it on the recital this afternoon and I want to play it too!"

And the younger one said, "Mom, stop playing with me, you play out of tune and get me off."

And the older one cheered out loud in group class when he discovered he had caught up to his friend. (and she was annoyed, because she didn't even know there was a contest!)

And the younger one said, "Don't we have any other tapes to listen to but violin? I don't have to listen anymore. I already know it. I hate practicing, I want to watch TV. I hate my teacher, she wants me to hold my violin up.

(I have to interject for a second here, because I actually LOVED my teacher Mrs. Robertson to death. Kids say jerky things sometimes...),

I hate double stops. I CAN'T do them. I won't learn the cadenza. It's too hard, nobody will know the difference. I won't carry the violin, my friends would know I played!"

And the older one said, "Find me another talent show Mother. I want to win again!" And the younger one said, "Leave me alone, don't talk while I'm practicing." (and five minutes later he shouted, "Come quick and tell me what I'm supposed to do here!") And the older one said, "Now that I'm in orchestra, I don't need to take lessons anymore. I'm good enough."

And the younger one said, "I'm definitely going to quit when I finish Book Ten, (by the way, Mom, we have to find a better piano accompanist, you don't play fast enough.)

And Grandmother cried when they played, and Granddad was proud, and Great-Grandmother said, "At last! Somebody in the family who can really play!"

But the little boys didn't understand why yet, and whispered, "They were just saying it because we are their family."

And the younger one said, "I don't think I want to play forever." And the older one said, "I'd rather play trumpet", and the other said, "I'd rather play percussion." (And they did that very well, too.)

And one said, "I guess I'll keep playing in the string quartet because nobody else would play as well as I can." And one said, "If you find us more jobs for money, I'll keep playing."

And once, when she had heard "I hate violin" once too often and thought it might be time to quit, one came in and said, "Watch my fingers, Mother, see how they play this fast part. They're just doing it by themselves!" And she thought, maybe a LITTLE longer.....

(and their mother tried to be very quiet and not say anything wrong, but it was hard to know what was right, and sometimes she did say the wrong thing, but maybe sometimes she said the right thing, but what was it? She couldn't remember...)

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