The second of 52 notes I’ll be sending out each week to family members, friends, people in my past, and awesome strangers over 2015 (read THIS and you’ll understand) went to my childhood music teacher, Rita Wilcox. This is a person born to teach music; a woman who could hardly contain her passion for helping children learn to play the violin, the viola, the piano.
I didn’t want to play violin. I much preferred ballet classes and art lessons and baton twirling and just sitting on my bum watching TV and playing Atari or games on my Commodore 64. My mom had other ideas: plans to raise a classical music virtuoso. I disappointed her. Ms. Wilcox, I’m sure, picked up on my indifference but still did her best to keep me enthused, even when I had to join other fiddle-playing kids to put on mini concerts at retirement homes up and down the Central Valley; or on those occasions when I had to bribe friends to come hang out at my house after school on Thursdays, which meant they’d have to sit through my private lesson at Ms. Wilcox’s home, cluttered with sheet music and instruments and metronomes. And cats (or maybe it was a fat dog? – there was some animal I recall taking residence on the bottom stair step).
Distance allowed me to appreciate my violin days. Ms. Wilcox always said I had a great ear; that while my fingering might be wrong, I still found a way to get to my note. I can’t explain how, but learning to play violin by ear; understanding pitch; grasping a tempo; performing for a crowd – I was surely enriched in dozens of intangible ways by my musical experiences. And it’s Ms. Wilcox (and my mom) I have to thank for this. And this is what I explained in my letter to her, along with words about my admiration for her dedication to teaching children, her delight at leading little ones, and how her continued work (she still teaches violin at Stockton’s Delta College, the same place where I took my group lessons) to educate kids and get them jazzed about music is inspiring – especially when she get through to the ones forced to take lessons by their classical-music-loving parents.