Great Teachers in my Life

#1. Kammi.

I have been playing the violin since I was 4 years old. But it wasn’t my first instrument. Both my parents are excellent pianists, and my sisters and I were all perched upon the piano bench and given lessons as soon as we were old enough to sit up straight. However, as soon as I met Kammi, it became obvious that I would have a new teacher ~ and a new instrument. I was four and one-half years old when I began my official violin studies. My first violin was actually a Kraft Macaroni&Cheese box with a ruler taped to the end of it….. Not all 4 year olds can (or should) be trusted with a real instrument right away!

How can I possibly begin to describe Kammi? I suppose I can say that she embodied everything I hoped that I would be when I grew up. She was SO funny. Unbelievably creative. Smart. Adventuresome.  Generous. Fearless~ seemingly. We had a fantastic time together every lesson. I learned how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in the bathtub… with my head out the window of her college dorm… upside down… and while standing on one foot. After all, balance is very important as a young violinist!!!

Kammi was my hero. I learned how to read music by tossing handmade bean bags back and forth. We celebrated my musical achievements by having waffles after our lessons (marmalade jam….mmmmm!) She was frisky, always doing something new and exciting with her life that translated into more variety in her teaching. When I was well-behaved, I would be allowed to sit next to her at church ~ and I’d try to sing the way she sang: with joy and enthusiasm.

I was motivated to be a good violinist not only by my super-cool teacher, but also by competition; I wanted to be better than my big sister, Emily, who started lessons with Kammi at the same time I did. (Em switched to cello a couple years later, and ultimately found her calling as an amazing illustrator.) Hee hee!

One week at church, Kammi told me that she was planning a five-week, five-country tour of Europe. I told her, without a moment’s hesitation, that I wanted to join her~ and (as a testament to how KIND she was) she said yes! I was in fifth grade. I expanded my paper route and saved enough money to pay my own way. She lent me a backpack and off we went, violins and all. We played in subways, under the Eiffel tower, in concert halls in Germany and the Netherlands. I got my first real taste of how vast and vunderful this world is. And of what it is like to walk through this world with grace.

When Kammi got a job on the other side of the state, I began my studies with other teachers who would evolve my playing throughout high school and college. She and I remained very close for many years, but once I left college and began my gypsy-travelling years, we lost touch. I know that she now has three amazing boys, a great partner and a sweet house on a lake. I look forward to reconnecting again, some day soon, and letting her know what a mark she made on me.

Take a moment to consider the great teachers that you have had in your life. Often in the subtlest of ways they make us who we are today. And sometimes, they are responsible for setting us on a trajectory that will determine the course of our lives. Kammi… I thank you for instilling in me a sense of adventure, a keen appreciation for humor, and a fierce desire to let my whole life be my art. Thank you for making learning so much fun.

As I prepare for my lovely and talented student, Anna, to arrive for a violin lesson, I realize that what I have to offer right now as a teacher is a synthesis of that which I received as a student. Being a teacher is one of the greatest honors ~ and responsibilities ~ of my life. To all my teachers… you are all my heroes… you have made me who I am today.

And may I leave as positive and life-affirming a mark on my violin students as Kammi did on me.

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One Response to Great Teachers in my Life

  1. Gretel says:

    Kammi sounds awesome. If only all kids could have music teachers so cool, fun, and inspiring! Can wait to read about teacher #2.

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