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This violin was banned from school because it’s the wrong colour

Music teachers, doncha just love ‘em?

Camille Cruz, 11, was given a violin by her proud grandma. She took it to play in school, at Farmington, New Mexico.

The teacher said it stuck out too much from the rest of the class and she should rent an ordinary violin like everyone else.

Now the story’s going viral. Why was poor Camille put bunder such pressure to conform?

 

 

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Comments

  1. This is crazy. Have they never heard of the pbone (http://www.pbone.co.uk)? This inexpensive, plastic trombone, available in a range of colours, has proven a real hit with kids. The British Trombone Society is even involved in a nationwide initiative to get children playing the trombone using the pbone. The plastic instrument may not be visually appealing, but to parents struggling to cope with strained finances, it represents a fantastic opportunity to test the waters without a large investment in a delicate and expensive musical instrument, which may be cast aside after a short time. The empirical evidence is out there to show that such instruments are a success story.

    • Ed, I like the pBones too, and I’ve given a couple to my young students. But, that’s not what this thread is about, I think.

      • Well, now that I think about it, maybe there *is* something related in Ed’s pBone comment.

        I just realize, that I bought the two in YELLOW, because I was thinking that they wouldn’t stand out from the other brass in our school band in the same way that the red, purple, green, or blue pBones would. So, maybe I’m no different from the Farmington string teacher. :-)

        The other colors are quite nice. Would I rather have a John Packer/Michael Rath student model or a Yamaha YSL-356 student model trombone for them? Sure I would. On the other hand, I don’t cringe when the PVC slide tubes bump the music stand, or the whole thing falls off a chair. The boys, 12-year-olds, like them because they are very light. And, for the price of the Yamaha, I can buy maybe half a dozen pBones.

  2. So much about Public Education these days is about controlling behavior and scoring well on tests (which in a way, is also enhanced by controlling behavior). The other part of education—the hard part—is embracing and developing creativity. It is much harder for teachers, and is also much more difficult to measure–so it is often left out. In this case, the teacher couldn’t see beyond behavior control (ensuring conformity) to see that her actions actually contradicted her core mission—encouraging participation in music.

    • “Public Education these days is about controlling behavior”

      That’s what it’s always been about and what it was conceived to accomplish in the first place.

  3. Paul Ricchi says:

    She more like an “educrat” than a music teacher. What is the opposite of inspiring?

  4. I never thought that I’d say this, but “Fire the music teacher”. If there is nothing in writing about this policy then the child should be free to play whatever she wants and if there is a written policy, then that district has too much time on their hands.
    Disgraceful.

  5. Paul Ricchi says:

    Beside the color, the teacher cited a difference in tone. These are 11 year olds not the Amadeus SQ, so I gather that the difference was it did not sound like a cat being abused.

  6. What a crazy music teacher, she should have been so happy that the kid had a grandma who wanted to encourage an interest in the violin and making music. Do we know how this story turned out in the end?

  7. Ok, its poor taste…. perhaps crass……looks like it might belong to Prince, but its still a violin isnt it ? Im wondering if its not just a controlling ‘conformist’ agenda here, but a ‘class’ agenda too? I think its great that her family have invested proper money on something which isnt an xbox, a plastic toy, or a boob job, and bought her something that is aspirational, difficult, interesting, mind-developing, and a long term investment in a tangible skill.

  8. Sir:

    It is almost universally the case that coloured violins are of a low quality, and so discrimination on that basis would be justified for a high-standard amateur orchestra or a professional orchestra. However, in an orchestra for complete beginners, it does seem a bit mean, especially since it has resulted in a child ultimately not taking up the instrument. Finally, citing the distinct appearence is a very poor excuse; violins, unlike cars or computers, do not come in uniform models for which every specimen is identical, since so much depends on the wood.

  9. I’ve never seen a purple tree
    I never hope to see one
    But judging from the violins we have
    There certainly must be one.

    The teacher here was heard to say
    it sounded like ebola;
    but I’d rather a purple violin
    than any color viola.

  10. So, why can’t the orchestra director lobby her school board to buy the program forty professional violins in a color of her choice, if that’s what she thinks her program requires? Her marching band director probably has no problem getting a set if matching drums for its drumline, or matching Sousaphones, whether fiberglass or silver-plated or lacquered brass. Provide the students what they need!

  11. My son fell in love with a not very good very red violin when he was 8. He wanted to play it because of what it looked it. It inspired him. He’s thirteen now, at Juilliard Pre-College. (playing viola, for what that’s worth). I always think let the kids be kids and enjoy things for all the wrong reasons. We will have plenty of time to get them good instruments later! But a lot of teachers don’t want kids to stick out. it’s a shame.

  12. It’s not so clear to me that we should judge the music teacher. Let’s imagine that someone in the New York Philharmonic decided that he wanted to go on stage with the orchestra wearing a purple suit? A purple shirt? A purple pair of shoes? ANYTHING but a black tuxedo! I don’t think that the teacher should be blamed for the extreme reaction of the entire classical music world.
    Remember that, as a teacher, she is responsible not only for guiding the orchestra, but for developing music appreciation in the whole student body.If the students sitting in the auditorium were upset or distracted by the purple violin, would that help her in her attempts to instil real musical values in their young ears? I don’t think we’re likely to see a purple violin in the Vienna Philharmonic; or any other Philharmonic for that matter. And the first people to complain would probably be in the audiences themselves, appalled by the “outrage” against the “holy gods of music” ! The stupidity doesn’t begin with this teacher, and it’s not clear to me that she did the wrong thing.

    • There’s a professional violinist in NYC who I’ve seen in several pickup orchestras who plays “left-handed” (bow in the left hand, instrument in the right). At first glance this is distracting, but it passes quickly and he can obviously play as well as the other violins. Imagine if he had this ignoramus of a music teacher forcing him to change to “normal” violin player.

      Some details in the LA Times story are disturbing:

      [She didn’t like the color and she said she had to keep tuning it, suggesting it was a piece-of-crap violin,” said Lopez, a mother of five.']

      Of course the teacher had to keep tuning it — it’s a violin with a set of new strings, each of which has to be broken in. And the color of a violin has nothing to do with its sound, the varnish being such a small part of a violin’s sound, regardless of the color (vanishingly small, you realize, if you get to hear a violin “in the white,” that is, yet unvarnished). It may indeed not be the greatest student fiddle, but I bet that no violin this apparently cash-strapped school system can reasonably afford without taxpayer protest would be substantially better.

      The real tragedy is at the end of the LA Times piece: Camille has quit the orchestra. How sad.

      This behavior contrasts greatly with that of my first orchestra teacher back in grade school who actually had to have a heart-to-heart with me and my parents to keep me from quitting orchestra and going on to other pursuits. His confidence in me kept me in the group and greatly influenced my future career. For this, I will be eternally grateful. I cherish the memory of Peter Mesrobian, who set me on my path some 50 years ago.

      –Sixtus

      • Naughty Nigel says:

        Sixtus mentioned the [negligible] effect of varnish on the sound made by a violin.

        As a paint chemist you might be interested to know that the total thickness of varnish or lacquer applied to a violin is likely to be less than 25 µm (microns) – that’s 25 millionths of a metre, or about one thousandth of an inch in old money.

      • Sixtus-

        I have a student in my middle school orchestra with a pink cello shaped object. It is made out of some kind of polymer and is, honestly, impossible to play in tune. I’ll tune it for the student–like many others in the ensemble–and within five minutes it is out of tune. To magnify that, the instrument is too large for the sixth grader and her poor fingers cannot manipulate the demands of a full-sized “cello.” But they were undoubtedly enticed by the price on eBay and this student has her lovely pink object that sticks out in many more ways than one.

        Just from one who is there…

    • Paul Ricchi says:

      Upset? distracted? No doubt. As a child I was traumatized by the sight of an orange oboe and on psych meds for decades. It is outrageous that other children be subjected to a purple fiddle….call in the counsellors!

  13. Naughty Nigel says:

    I would have thought that a purple violin would create interest amongst the class, which surely, is exactly what is needed. With encouragement there could have been ten or twenty of them after Christmas. After all, I am sure the violin is no more expensive than an iPhone 5, and there will be plenty of those in the school playground in the New Year.

    Sadly, all too many teachers like to ‘level the playing field’ by pushing bright and motivated children to one side so that those with no interest or aspiration don’t feel left out. Our own children have suffered in this way because they have private music classes. Our son was sent to the Head Teacher when he was 13 because he was caught playing Bach piece when he should have been learning the keys on a keyboard.

    This mentality pervades many state schools here in the UK, which I believe explains why aspirations are so low.

  14. “Why was poor Camille put under such pressure to conform?” Because “diversity” is really conformity.
    PS, Jimmie, that was a nice take on the purple cow poem.

  15. Stephen Carpenter says:

    The assumption is that the “music teacher” for the orchestra actually has “orchestra” somewhere in his(er) academics. Schools where I taught (in visual arts), see Mus Ed on the diploma and assume they have someone who can do anything with “music.” Who knows- the teacher’s major may have been “singing” yet another pandorian box. This has been the state of artS ed for my whole career (60′s – 2000′s) in US public schools.

    Far from having a “control objective” I personally worked very hard to be a safe haven for the creatives as did my music colleague. We accomplished this mostly because no one cared what we did as long as real teachers could get a break from the “little darlings”. (Elementary- Middle School- actual terms used).

    If there’s a point to be made about the damage, please let us include what has happened on a permanent basis to Camille, her grandmother, and ultimately, the world because we don’t know if this is a passing fancy for Camille or a heart-soul-spirit issue. All because of a “wrong” color. The best camouflage is to make it apparent. What would have been wrong with saying first to the rest of the orchestra something about new versus old instruments? (teachable moment), and if needs be, the same from the podium so the audience can move forward in their thinking?

    Condolences to Camille. Keep playing that purple violin especially when your grandmother is present.

  16. John Parfrey says:

    I’m a former music teacher, and given the state of music education (nearly non-existent) today, if a kid showed up with an instrument that had anything short of obscenities or pornography on it, it wouldn’t bother me for a minute. What if the kid showed up bald owing to a serious condition? That would set them off from the others, too, wouldn’t it? Egad!

  17. Nobody mentioned the matching bow!

    If everything is set up right, and these rainbow fiddles encourage kids to play and to practice, I think it is a great idea to break the mold. I recall seeing some small basses (kid size) that come in bright colors. Now that we have the technology to make durable and responsive instruments out of carbon fiber, we should celebrate the possibilities.

  18. This is ridiculous. What is wrong with school staff these days. It amazes me that some of these retarded principals earn more than 100,000 a year. Tell me again why we want more of these idiotic teachers? Private schools are where its at. They actually hire intelligent people (usually).

  19. Dean Wiliams says:

    Here’s a thought:
    What if the teacher wanted to be nice, and did not want to say that the violin in question was so cheap that it was virtually unplayable. So what did she say to the child? “You can’t play a purple violin.” It’s much more diplomatic than “Sorry Dear, but your violin is such a piece of crap that it sounds more like a cat being tortured on a rack than a musical instrument. Tell your parents to get you a better one”
    I don’t know what the teacher was thinking or saying. Neither does anyone here, as she is probably unable to tell her story in such a viral fashion.
    The moral of my little missive is simply this: There are always two sides to a story, but in the information age, it is often impossible to hear one of them. In this day and age, victory usually goes to the person who can manipulate media more effectively. So before calling for the firing of a person who is probably a very dedicated music teacher, why don’t we all wait to find out what really happened?

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