Feeling perhaps cooler than I have ever felt in my life, I strutted through the town of San Remo with my viola casually strewn over my shoulder, my folder of my sheet music in hand, to the apartment of my Maestra.
Excuse me for a minute but doesn't everything in that sentence I just wrote exude COOL? I have a voila, if I'm carrying it around, I must use it. I have a MAESTRA, and I go to see her in San Remo ITALY. I have SHEET MUSIC, for god's sake, which must mean I know how to read it! Freakin cool. So anyway...
She buzzed me in and sent the elevator down for me. I confidently entered, road to the top floor, and remembered, with a certain smugness that the elevator door pushes open from the right, not the left (I had made a stellar first impression at my last lesson by getting stuck in the elevator, repeatedly pushing on the left side of the door until La Maestra came and got me out).
M: Ciao Lynn!
L: Buon Giorno, Maestra.
M: Hai studiato? (did you study?)
L: Certo! Tanto! (of course! a lot!)
My homework was just two part, 1. solfeggio (learning to count the different notes in time) and 2. basic exercises on the instrument getting me comfortable with using the bow properly (basically, pulling the bow from top to bottom, or dal punto al tallone as we say here, on one string over and over and over again).
We sat down and she set in front of me some sheet music that she had hand written for me.
M: please count this out using the proper note names, in time.
L: um, well...
M: what's wrong?
L: I actually spent a lot of time trying to learn the note names this week. Remember I told you that in America the notes have letter names, not do re mi, etc.
M: Ah...ok, forget the counting in time, just sing the names of these notes for me.
L: sing the names?
M: yeah, sing the note names.
L: um yeah, that's going to be a little difficult. I started memorizing the names but I'm not 100% yet.
M: oh, fine, just start.
L: La, Re, Do, Mi, Mi, Fa....um,
M: sol. And why aren't you singing?
L: That's the other thing. I can't sing.
Little interruption in the story here. In beautiful, easy english we have the word "can" which means "able to" "permitted to" "allowed to" "capable of", etc. In italian they have different words for all these things. I haven't really mastered the difference yet in my conversational usage of the language. As it turns out, what I actually told the Maestra was, "I'm not permitted to sing".
M: What do you mean you aren't permitted to sing?
ok, 20 minutes pass while we try to figure out the miscommunication and the fact that I'm not tone deaf but, well, that I just can't sing (in the "not capable" sense).
M: Ok. Learn this counting, with the names of the notes, so you can sing it to me next time. Let's get our instruments. Show me the work you did with the bow.
Feeling ready to redeem myself by showing her how great I had become at using the bow through the inane, um, I mean really useful, exercises she had given me, that I mastered, by the way in 2 10 minutes practise sessions, I start playing.
M: Um, excuse me, Lynn. I'm sorry, maybe I misunderstood. Did you say that you DID practice this?
So it goes. My homework this week looks a lot like that of last week, but from a much more humble perspective.