She Plays the Violin- Part 2

By the end of the summer between second and third grade, Violet knows what a note looks like on the page: a fat, black blob with a line attached, like a tadpole with its tail sticking straight up. She knows that notes can come in halves, and quarters, and even eighths, and that they can also be double or quadruple as long as a regular note. Like the alphabet, notes begin at A and get higher with each letter. That A has a certain sound, but an F has a different one, and so does a C. Stringing those notes together makes a song.

To Violet, it seems like just as much of a transformation as science experiments, like adding vinegar to baking soda to make it explode out of a bottle. Music comes from something as normal as a sheet of paper with dots on it. She explains this breathlessly to her mom one day after music camp, and her mom’s entire face lights up.

Convincing her parents hadn’t actually been very hard, since Violet’s mom agreed with her right away. “Making music is a very important thing to know how to do,” she’d said, and then she promised she would try to convince Violet’s dad. This, Violet knew, wouldn’t take very long. Her dad always gave in to whatever it was her mom wanted.

But she knew what the problem was: money. She and her sister Lina listened from the hallway outside their parents’ door and heard the muffled sound of their dad’s voice: “Of course I want her to be able to join the orchestra. But that music camp costs money. And we’ll have to rent the violin, you know, and pay for the sheet music…”

“We’ll steal a violin,” Lina whispered. Lina was obsessed with books, and her latest favorites included a series about Robin Hood, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

“You couldn’t even steal a bag of M&Ms from the 7-11,” Violet muttered. This was true. The last time they were at their cousins’ house, Lina had told her and Maria and Tobias that she’d steal some candy for all of them to share. But she hadn’t been able to go through with it.

In the bedroom, their mom was saying, “It’ll be just a little bit a month, the cost of gas – if you carpooled to work, we could save that much – or the cost of new shoes-”

“All right,” he said, “all right,” and both Lina and Violet raised their fists in a silent shout of victory.

Now, Violet has the feeling that she’s made her dad proud, made him think the money was worth it. When she finished her first Suzuki violin workbook in three weeks, the other boys and girls were still struggling with the exercises on the first ten pages. Mr. Daniels, the orchestra teacher, began handing her extra sheet music after each day of camp. She played Amazing Grace, and Happy Birthday, and a minuet by Bach. Each day, the bow grew steadier in her hands.

On the last day of camp, Mr. Daniels draws her aside and says, “I wanted to run an idea by you, Violet. What would you think of playing with the fourth-graders this year?”

“They’re a year better than me, though,” she says. The fourth-graders are taller than her, and, by being a year older, command a coolness she can’t imagine possessing.

“Ah, but,” he tells her, “you’re very good. To tell you the truth, you’ve progressed so fast, I think you’d be bored with the rest of the third-graders.”

“Maybe,” she says, and thanks him for showing her what the violin can do when it’s in her hands, and heads out to the sun-soaked parking lot, where her mom is waiting to pick her up. Violet already knows what she’ll tell Mr. Daniels, of course. That she’s already eager to play the harder parts, the sections that flutter up and down lines of music like a chickadee.

Read Part 3