Motherhood

Toby and the Violin

Recently Toby became randomly obsessed with violins. Alex and I were trying to figure out where this new fascination came from. A street musician? A Dora the Explorer episode? Thin air? However it started, Toby’s love of the violin is a real thing. He draws pictures of violins. He pretends that his books are violins and holds them up to his neck. Every evening, instead of watching a kids TV show, he asks for bluegrass videos on YouTube. (Annie is his favorite.)

Last week, Alex suggested we find him a miniature used violin on eBay. At first I thought it sounded crazy and extravagant (he’s only two!), but Alex really thought it was worth it. So we ordered this teeny violin (it’s 1/8th size), and Toby was psychotically excited about the impending arrival (“The brown package here yet, Mama?” “You think today the violin comes, Mama?” “We open it with scissors, Mama?”) until it arrived this past Friday. Honestly, I have been amazed by how much Toby has played with it, and he even insists on carrying it with him in the stroller and gently cuddling it while we read bedtime stories.

Anyway, it has been such a fascinating turn-of-events. Maybe when he’s a bit older, if he’s still interested, we could sign him up for some lessons.
The giddy moment we realized that the case could double as a backpack!

Do your kiddos play any instruments? (Do you?) I wish I did!

P.S. The magic of Central Park and a lullaby that actually works.

  1. Amanda Bowerman says...

    I’ve always loved this post and was recently wondering if he’s still loving the violin or if he’s grown out of it?

  2. My 2 and a half yr old son is also totally obsessed with instruments. It started with the violin and has moved to drums and horns now. He sleeps with our bathroom trash can which is his ‘bass drum’ filled with our pot lids “symbols” on his bed. The idea of ordering instruments on ebay is great. Thanks for the stories and solidarity in the “Mothers of toddlers obsessed with instruments club”

  3. As a violin teacher, I think you should get him started now! The earlier the better! Find a good teacher who specializes in the Suzuki method. It will be well worth it in the long run! :)

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  5. KJ says...

    There’s a man holding a violin in that Central Park book you linked to in your “PS”

  6. this is lovely.. my daughter plays the violin shes 10..,

  7. I began playing the flute at 4 with the Suzuki Program (early childhood classical music education). I’m still playing now and am a professional musician playing with a symphony and teaching lessons myself! I love that my parents put me into lessons at a young age. I am the musician today because of the care, support and love my parents (especially my mom) poured into my music education. It requires a lot of support from parents but I think my parents are glad they did!

  8. oh my. this is toooo cute! my son hugs and kisses strange things (objects he loves) too & I think it’s the best. will remember to look out for his name in lights ;-)

  9. I saw at least one comment from another Suzuki violin teacher. I am also one, and we start students very young. I don’t teach kids before 3, but I would be happy to let a 2 year old come observe lessons to keep up the inspiration! You should check out the Suzuki Association website for a teacher and contact them about observing! This is such a cool interest for him to have so young!

  10. this is how it starts! keep with it, toby!

  11. I remember my first violin! I loved it so! And then I realized that I had to practice every day haha. But in the end, after years of wonderful lessons and not-so-wonderful fights with my mom over practicing, I love my violin again :).

  12. This is the sweetest thing ever. SO darling. Lucia is obsessed with being underwater and learning about animals in the sea. She crawls around under the tables and bar stools and says that she’s “at the bottom of the ocean with a scuba” bc we’ve watched a gajillion youtube videos of scuba divers exploring fish and whales and sharks. We have this animal encyclopedia and she opens it up to the same page every morning so she can look at a whale and the coral. But I can’t very well go to ebay and buy her a mini scuba tank can I? Imagine? It’s so wonderful and funny and random the things these kids fall in love with?

  13. Maybe he will go to Interlochen!

  14. I started at 2 and a half and I’m still playing at 23! It’s never too early especially if the love for music comes from him :) you can start with group lessons since that might be more fun for him. Go Toby!

  15. Start now! My mom started me with the keyboard at 4 before moving on to the piano at 8. It wasn’t my decision, and she pushed me to keep at it until I was 18. There were days that I hated going to my lessons, but I’m so glad that my mom made me go. I loved the piano, and I miss playing.

    I think WHILE he’s still interested, Toby should start lessons if it makes logistical and financial sense.

    Also, I was a violinist in my middle school orchestra :) It really is a fun instrument.

  16. Music is so wonderful for kids (and adults). I played the saxophone growing up and love(d) it. I think it’s great you guys got him the violin! See where it goes! All the greats start young! :)

  17. Aww this is so sweet. I started Violin when I was 4… it’s best to start early as it does resemble a cat being strangled for several years… hang in there if he does take it up properly! It will sound good eventually!

  18. Aww this is so sweet. I started Violin when I was 4… it’s best to start early as it does resemble a cat being strangled for several years… hang in there if he does take it up properly! It will sound good eventually!

  19. I love this! I have my first violin lesson on friday! I wish I had taken this up at his age. Hopefully he will stick with it. Such a beautiful instrument. xox

  20. This post made me smile because it reminded me exactly of how I was when I was his age. My parents got me a violin at the age of three and I took it everywhere…my soccer games and the grocery store to name a few. I started violin lessons at three and a half under the Suzuki method and highly recommend it. They actually recommend children starting at a young age (particularly three is a great age!). So I would highly recommend looking into it, especially since he has such an interest in it!

    • You can look up on the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) website for great teachers in your area.. http://suzukiassociation.org/

  21. This is awesome!!!
    That is the story of most violin prodigys! They start to love the instrument at a VERY early age.

    That being said, I am a violinist (have been since the age of 6), and work for a classical music management company in NYC (IMG Artists), so if you ever want lessons from me or want any recommendations, feel free to reach out! (kstookesberry@gmail.com).

  22. This is so sweet! I can’t wait for Toby to be a world famous bluegrass fiddle player!

  23. Joanna, this is HUGE! I started playing violin when I was 9 and I’ve wanted to do lessons since I was Toby’s age. Honestly, I think you should enroll him asap! It will be not only good fun but so educational to him. Think about it! xoxox

  24. Strange…my 4 yr old often asks for a violin. Maybe i should buy her one also! I’d love her to play some kind of instrument though will give her a few options and see which one she gravitates toward i guess.

  25. I studied violin from the age of five until I was almost eighteen years old. I can definitely say that it has had an incredible impact on my life, and for all the times when I felt it was too hard and I didn’t like it, my memories, friendships and ability make up it all tenfold. I studied the Suzuki method, and I knew children who began as early as two and three years old. It would be wonderful for your son to take lessons, as early as he can!

  26. As a professional musician, I highly recommend the Suzuki method. It is a great social and artistic outlet for a child. And it also requires parental involvement, which is nice for the parents. Plus, they can start at 2.5 years.

  27. I play the viola :)! Toby is lovely…

  28. i play viola :) toby is lovely..

  29. This is beyond precious.

  30. This is darling. I love how enthralled he is with it! If he keeps up this interest for a while you should definitely consider starting him on an instrument. I’m a cellist (studying Cello Performance at a conservatory currently) and all of my family started piano at around 3 or 4 and then began lessons on a string instrument a few years later. GO TOBY!

  31. This is so sweet!

  32. +1 for Maywyn Studios.

    See the short film “The Music in Me” for inspiration.

    xoxo!

  33. Oh I love this so much. Maybe Toby was a violinist in a past life and he is destined for greatness!! Isn’t that fun to think about. :) Anyway, I have loved playing and singing music since I was very little. I’ve taken choir since kindergarten and sing in an amazing women’s chorus now at 25. I also have tap danced since I was 3 and still love it unconditionally. I think the thing about singing/dancing was that I never felt pressured. I also played the saxophone because my dad was amazing (plays by ear) and that was always fun as well. The hobbies that faded away were always the ones that I seemed pushed to perfect or wasn’t naturally in love with. I think letting him have his own play violin is brilliant…take him to see a philharmonic show or even watch Fantasia with him (just FF through any dark parts :)! :) PS. he looks so much like Alex in that last picture..what a sweetheart.

  34. when i was about 2 1/2 i began asking my parents for a violin. they thought it was a phase (considering i also said i wanted to be a fire truck when i grew up), but i persisted until they finally caved at age 5. i loved the violin as a kid – it’s certainly a great hobby for kids should toby continue to be curious! xo

  35. Oh he is just the cutest! You should definitely get him lessons when he’s a bit bigger, I guess they would start teaching once he reaches school age? He might be the next Mozart (who I know was a pianist, but still!) xxx

  36. N says...

    How adorable is that?! I love that he’s so fixated on his little violin. Maybe he’ll be a musical prodigy one day?! (I kid but how great is that? Thanks for sharing such a sweet story and photos). Natalie – nearafar.com

  37. Love this! My two sisters and I played violin for 6 or so years (the Suzuki method). I remember practicing before lessons when my step-brother (a teenager) would come in and offer, “If you give me 5 bucks, I’ll break your arm.” We didn’t really enjoy the practicing and he didn’t the sound. Regardless, I do wish I had stuck with it.

  38. I cannot recommend Nurtured by Love enough and I also recommend Ability to Learn from Age Zero (both by Shinichi Suzuki, the founder of the Suzuki method). I would recommend them to any parent regardless of whether they want to get their child into music. I teach very-beginning Suzuki violin to 5 and 6 year olds and we have younger siblings that come into our group class one who can’t be older than 3 who is already taking lessons after absorbing so much from simply watching the class.

  39. I’m another Suzuki kid – I started lessons when I was ~3.5 because I kept pounding on the piano while my sister was practicing :) I’ve since switched over to cello, and I love my parents so much for cultivating in me the ability to perceive and practice a special, splendid beauty. We still nerd out together on the phone about classical concerts we’ve been to.

  40. That is just beyond precious & kind of thrilling! What if he grows up to be a world class violinist? ;)

    I’d definitely keep encouraging him. Kids are so fluid and able to pick up on new languages and skills so easily at that age.

  41. If he can hold it, he then he can play
    Get the kid lessons.

  42. Such a sweetheart in the last picture with his little tummy and that grin! x

  43. k says...

    My mom played piano once, when she was 10, but because of the lack on money during that time (living in Estonia during the soviet union time) she had to stop the studies.
    She has been regretted the decision for a long time. But then she understood, that she can realize it through her children. She didin’t push me into music, but started to introduce me different options. When I was three, I started to sing in a little children studio. Then came flute, guitar, handbell and piano studies. Right now I am little bit seperated from the music studies.
    But I do have a younger sister and brother. Brother started with tumpet and piano and my little sister, who is now 12 years old started very young with violin. She started with suzuki methot, which is really good for young starters. It trains your ear and teaches how to play without having to know solfedzo and all the notes. It also was good for my mom, who had at first learn a bit how to play violin with her daughter, so she can help her a bit in the beginning. Now the love of music has turned so big, that my sister also started to play ukulele, piano and saxophone. She has so many cases of instrument to carry with every day, but she is not willing to give up.
    I sometimes wonder, how it went like this. But none of us has regretted the studies. And I’m happy, my mom always somehow served the things like this, that we, me and my brother and sister, could always make the decisions, weather we want to study something or not, ourselves. Nothing was forced.
    I do recommend suzuki method with the violin studies. Have you heard of it?

  44. Oh, this takes me back to when my little Mini took cello lessons in 1st grade…sigh. Enjoy…they grow up so quick…she is now 16 years old and barely remembers the cello…

    http://www.soulpretty.etsy.com

  45. Take him to see some violins! Manhattan School of Music student orchestra concerts, Juilliard student Orchestra Concerts(those might be free or very inexpensive), Brooklyn Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic – the options are endless where you live, but boy, wouldn’t he love that?

  46. I don’t know what your idea of ‘when he’s older’ is but I started playing the violin when I was THREE! Kids can learn it, and I can still remember two or three of the songs I memorized in those first early years of playing. (I’m 26 now). I, regretfully, stopped playing around seven because I wasnted to take horse riding lessons more than practice the violin, but I always wish I would have stuck with it.
    If you and your husband can get him into lessons, I’d strongly suggest you do. He would probably surprise you with how much he can retain, and its an incredibly empowering thing for a kid (at least for me it was) to make music.
    Also, maybe wait to see if you can stand his ‘practicing.’ I wouldn’t be surprised to find out my parents wore ear plugs for some of my practice sessions.

  47. This is adorable! I think it’s great that you’re encouraging him :)

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  49. That last picture just melts my heart :)

  50. I think I started on a 1/16 size violin. To cushion his chin and make it more comfortable, you can use a larger rubber band to attach a sponge to the top of the chin rest :)

  51. Oh my cuteness!!!!!!!!!!

  52. THIS is exactly how I got to playing violin from age 9 to 22.

    I started pretending a big picture book was the violin and a glitter want was the bow…and my mom noticed…

  53. My husband was a music major (piano) and his sisters (cello and violin) got their masters in it. From what I understand from my knowledgeable mother in law, Suzuki method is the best way to go when teaching stringed instruments to kids under 12 or so. But many Suzuki teachers don’t teach note reading, so it’s the opinion of my MIL that it’s most ideal to find a reputable Suzuki teacher that also teaches note reading. He’ll thank you later. :) How sweet that he is so fond of this beautiful instrument at such a young age!

  54. Yes! I started playing violin at 7 years old, and played through my early twenties. I’m so thankful I took music lessons. It teaches you discipline and patience, helps you practice making goals and working towards something (a concert), helps you make friends (I played in orchestra and chamber music groups), develops your artistic side, and gives you a special appreciation for music! It’s really cool that you got Toby started early (and that he expressed his own interest), though it probably won’t make sense to start lessons much earlier than 6 or 7 years old. I first became interested in violin after hearing my mom (who is a pianist) accompany a violinist. Then, it became a big part of my life, and I’m so happy it did.

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Two things I forgot to mention: 1) It’s possible to start earlier, but I wouldn’t start too too early or too intensely. Practicing takes great concentration and discipline, and strarting too early or too intensely could turn a child off from music (so one theory goes). 2) I DIDN’T take Suzuki lessons, and I think that was fine. If you have a good teacher, I don’t think you need Suzuki.

  55. This is wayyyy too cute! I started playing the violin in 3rd grade and I played all the way through my first year of college! I never owned my own though, so when my mom surprised me with one last Christmas I cried my little eyes out (even though I haven’t played in years). Music really does something awesome to a person!
    Jenn
    With Luck Blog

  56. O.M.G that has to be the cutest thing ever. It’s what children’s books are written about. Seriously, this made my night.

  57. Wow! He is so cute with the violin! My oldest, Annika, who is 5 plays the violin. We started in October with suzuki lessons and she loves/hates it. My husband and i were never introduced to music so we want that for our kids. She was eager to play an instrument. She wanted the violin and loved it when she heard an all women mariachi band. Our first class was a bad experience with a bad teacher. She didnt want to do it after that and It took a few lessons for her to overcome the fear that came from the first teacher. Now, she hates it when learning something new. She does not like to fail so the fear of just trying is huge. but once she gets over it and just starts playing she loves it and it really is amazing to hear her play. I’m very happy she is playing the violin. It’s helping her face the fear of failing and the joy of achieving something on her own, for herself. Her first recital is this Saturday. We’ll see. I highly recommend the Suzuki method if you do eventually do lessons. I dont know. I really think that innate love for anything is worth something.

  58. Suzuki, all the way! My niece began when she was 7 and continues to play, nearly ten years later. Warning: the violin was the “gateway instrument” to two others! Music is SO good for the brain. How lovely that your sweet boy has found such a great obsession!

  59. That is adorable!

    I played the piano starting around age 4, and added the cello around age 8. I played them both through college but oddly was much better and more drawn to the cello. But even though the cello is a “big” instrument, I know a thing or two about small sizes – being quite petite, my adult cello (which I invested in once I hit the later years of high school) is a 7/8-size. It’s not as visibly small as a 1/8-size violin (!) but it is small enough to make a difference to me. :)

    My older sister played the violin and my younger sister the viola, so we had a nice little trio for a while. They each played the piano, too, and we would always get roped into playing a duet at this function or that family gathering. Since we were three and a duet is two, we never knew what configuration we’d be in when the duet requests came – inevitably they would be like “Play us that one song!” and we’d be like “well we both only know the upper part of that” – so eventually we all learned both parts of each piece just so that we could play them interchangeably as needed. It was easier to just learn everything than to turn down a mob of my grandparents’ friends.

    My 7-year old stepson just got a guitar for his birthday, and is now in weekly guitar lessons. I would have totally preferred to start him first on either the piano or one of the classical string instruments because I think that, kind of like how classical ballet is sort of the “root” of so many kinds of dance, those instruments are kind of a “root” of music, as far as comprehension goes. But maybe I’m just biased! The guitar just seems like such a more…almost abstract kind of music comprehension, chord-based rather than note-based, I don’t know. I’m probably just projecting my own non-guitar-playing confusion onto the situation – I’m sure that if you don’t know anything about music at all, they’re all equally abstract and cerebral to get familiar with!

    The 3-year old wants to play the drums. Oy. I don’t actually know that he wants to play the drums; I think he just likes hitting things and so he says that he wants to play the drums. But regardless, because of the whole-body coordination required, it’s hard to find a teacher who will start him before age 8. So we’re off the hook for a while! I did get him a drumstick and he carries it EVERYWHERE. He even sleeps with it. We had to make a rule that the drumstick lays on the floor of the car when we’re driving, because otherwise he just waves it around back there and basically tempts fate.

  60. I started playing cello when I was 9. Our elementary school showed us all each of the different instruments and we could choose which we wanted to play for band/orchestra class (which was required 4th–6th grade). I remember feeling really drawn to the cello from that first presentation, and I played consistently for 8 years.

    Run with Toby’s enthusiasm and interest! Orchestra camps and special performances are some of my favorite childhood memories.

  61. Oh man – this might be your sweetest post yet! I love it from beginning to end! What a delightful experience for you all. Toby must be over the moon!

  62. My favorite post yet! I am a professional classical musician (oboist) and I would highly recommend taking Toby to a kid’s concert at your local orchestra. My orchestra is playing six shows for toddlers this week, and they absolutely love it. These type of shows are usually very interactive and educational, and they get the kids moving as well. Let us know if you try it!

  63. Wonderful! He’s such a cutie :)
    You should know about my family’s business, Johnson String Instrument (www.johnsonstring.com).

    A family run-business with the best string instrument rental program anywhere. Once Toby outgrows the 1/8th, you won’t have to shell out for the 4, 5, or 6 instruments as he gets bigger and better!

  64. augh, so cute!