PAGE 1 OF 2
Under the Mango Tree
by George Heidekat
Victor makes music for a mango tree. At age four, going on five, he's been studying violin for a little more than a year—exactly as long as his mom, Maria de Fátima Leite, an HHMI international research scholar who lives and works in Brazil.
Starting with no more musical background than her son had, she never intended to pick up a bow. When Leite enrolled 3-year-old Victor at a local Suzuki-method school, however, she found that she had, effectively, signed herself up for 30 minutes of violin practice every day. The Suzuki philosophy emphasizes training in a “noncompetitive, nurturing” environment; teachers expect a parent to attend the student's weekly lessons and to supervise daily practice sessions.
The parent isn't expected to play, or even know a tailpiece from a fingerboard. But Leite saw an opportunity to turn a half-hour monitoring chore into a shared experience. She started practicing with Victor and, to her surprise, found herself enjoying it. The buddy system helps her avoid practice-or-else confrontations and provides Victor with a role model: “He's stopped trying to practice while lying on the floor,” she notes.
“My son likes to make up compositions, and he'll say, ‘Now we're going to make music for a mango tree.' It's not clear whether he's playing to the tree or about the tree. At this point, it sounds like the tree is falling. Or like someone is falling out of it,” says Leite, with a laugh.
Illustration: Peter Arkle