So, over a year ago, I arranged for Tal to take cello lessons with Corbin. It had nothing to do with cello, although I do love the cello. Tal had never tried one, and had no desire to. It was about Corbin's personality, and how I knew that Tal just needed somebody he could really connect with.
Corbin happens to be "The Wild Cellist" (and also teaches guitar), but if he were a flute-player, Tal would be learning flute, now. If castanets, castanets. You get the picture. Tal did not, and refused. "No cello." So I ambushed him with the idea. I brought him to a house where I was mural-painting, when I knew Corbin would be there, painting the ceilings. And voila! Corbin met us at the door. The conversation went something like this:
"So Tal - this is Corbin. You remember Corbin, right? What do you think about trying out some cello, now?"
Corbin expertly interjects: "So you like to play violin, hey?"
"How do you like to play it?"
(Tal mimics holding his tiny violin like a cello.) "Or upside down."
"Oh yeah! Have you ever tried playing it with your hair? Like your own hair?"
"Well you know, if you rosin your hair - you know, like you rosin the bow - then it'll work way better."
Tal filled with joy. And within seconds they were comparing mouth-percussion sounds and other remarkable things. Tal went to Corbin's studio to try out his cello, Corbin bought a 3/4-size cello for us to rent for Tal, and for a year now, Tal has been playing cello. Not because he particularly loves cello, but because he loves Corbin.
And he never practices. Well, never without coercion, and I admit to falling down the coercion hole once in a while, probably to the detriment of his future. He is not a virtuoso, and has repeated loudly that he will never play in public, nor will he sing with his playing. He just goes to spend time with Corbin, making up songs (which Corbin inputs to his midi program on the computer), learning to follow sheet-music together, picking out tunes Tal enjoys (but will not practice), and experimenting with awesomely odd cello-playing techniques.
Now back to that practicing. I've tried all sorts of convincing arguments: "Imagine how awesome it would be to walk into Corbin's studio and say 'hey listen to what I can play!'" "Wouldn't it be nice if you could just pick up your cello/guitar and play that song without even thinking about it?" Etc. No luck. And when they do practice, because they feel obliged "Come on - I pay for these lessons! Can you please try to get as much out of it as you can?!" (I hang my head in shame...), then they run into each other for time, and someone invariably gets off the hook because the other is busy playing.
Then it hit me: Communal music!! They were both sitting around singing Hit the Road, Jack, beautifully on key and full of joy (yet another song they learned from Melanie Martinez), when I said "hey - see if you can play that together on your guitar and cello". For some reason, neither objected. They just got out their instruments and within a couple of minutes were picking their way through it! Amazing! Who knew!? In fact they've now done this two days in a row. I don't care that it isn't one of the songs Corbin has been working on with them; they got the spark and the confidence to do this from their time with him, and for that I am extremely grateful!!
I love how even when I forget, let the coercion and my own childhood experiences undercut the unschooling we try to achieve, unschooling itself is there to catch the tumbling falls. Oh isn't life beautiful!!