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Laurie Niles

Broken Bridge

May 10, 2012 at 5:21 PM

My fellow Suzuki teachers and I were tuning violins as dozens of students and parents buzzed around before the big spring recital, when a piercing, wooden "CRACK" startled everyone in the room.

Parents froze in alarm; teachers raised eyebrows knowingly. Only one thing makes that kind of noise: a bridge. A bridge collapse sounds like the end of the world, but usually a teacher can make it right. Unless, of course, the bridge looks like this:

Broken bridge

And indeed, it looked just like that. A helpful student ran to me and handed me the two pieces. Looking on, another parent suggested, "Maybe we could kind of stack them, and the strings would hold it all in place?"

"I'm afraid this bridge is done being a bridge," I said, shaking my head.

Meanwhile, the student with the injured violin was huddled in a pew with his parents. He was one of our youngest, about seven years old, dressed in his crisp white shirt and black pants for the concert. He was crying inconsolably over his quarter-sized violin while his parents tried to make it all okay. In his pre-concert exuberance, he'd fallen on his fiddle, and there was no going back.

The buzz had returned, and the show would go on. It was to start in about five minutes.

I sat next to the unhappy boy.

"I have to tell you something that happened to me when I was about your age," I said.

He looked up.

"Right before a concert, I tripped over my bow. It snapped completely in half," I said. "I couldn't use it in the concert."

"Did you get it fixed?" he asked.

"It was ruined, for good," I said. "So I kind of understand how you are feeling."

He nodded.

"Maybe we can find you a violin to borrow for part of the concert," I said.

A member of the family sitting behind us tapped me on the shoulder.

"Does he need to borrow a violin?" she asked. "Our boy isn't playing in all the pieces; he could use his violin."

"Really?" I said, looking at the boy in the other family, who was five years old and about the same size. This was to be his first concert. "Would that be okay with you?"

He looked at his mom and nodded.

"Well, that would be a very nice thing for you to do, to lend him your violin," I said. "You'd be kind of a hero."

So the two boys shared one violin for the concert. There was actually quite a bit of switching, as one was a "Pre-Twinkler" and another in "Early Book 1," and we'd mixed up the songs. The Pre-Twinklers went first, then the fiddle was exchanged, and at the very end, they changed back for "Twinkle."

Maybe a bridge built between two little boys is worth the price of a broken one!

From Ellie Withnall
Posted on May 11, 2012 at 1:47 AM
Awww, now I'm all teary.That's really sweet.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 11, 2012 at 3:17 AM
So well said Laurie...
From Dottie Case
Posted on May 11, 2012 at 6:36 PM
That 'crack' sound if very fresh in my mind as I had a student bridge drop right before the 'big' piece of our 'big' concert on Sunday. Luckily, this was a 19 yr. old student, and we took a few 'violin emergency' minutes, then moved on. Harder to manage when you are small... poor kid.
From Kim Vawter
Posted on May 14, 2012 at 8:46 PM
A sweet story. Glad there was a successful solution. I don't think I can recall ever seeing a broken bridge--They tumble down and have to be righted but snapped in half? How sad.
From Nicky Paxton
Posted on May 17, 2012 at 11:30 AM
What a lovely story, particularly when it came to the kindness of the second mother and her son. The nearest I ever got to a broken bridge was when I got a twisted bridge on the only occasion when I tried to pull back the bridge, as players who use the pegs for tuning are meant to do periodically. From now on, I'm going to ask the luthier to do that on one of my periodic visits. But the story on the blog was so cheerful.

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