Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Boy Named Courage

I brought my violin to the orphanage for the first time yesterday, which turned out to be the most remarkable experience I have ever had in my ten years as a musician- all because of a 15-year-old boy named Courage.

Me teaching a boy violin
After I played a couple songs, a lot of the kids wanted to try playing for themselves. They boisterously jostled to be next in line to shove it under their chin and awkwardly screech the strings.
That is, until Courage stepped forward and asked me to teach him a scale. Using simplified English and as few musical terms as possible, I showed him the fingering pattern for a basic G Major Scale. (Thankfully, this is the violin I initially learned on, so it still has the markings for where your fingers go, which makes it much easier to teach with.)

Courage teaching his newfound skill
Courage, like most Ghanaians, didn't know what a violin was before he saw mine. Everyone thinks it's some type of guitar. He had never even seen one, much less held or played one. But within ten minutes, he could play a correct 2-octave G Major scale (which, for you non-violinists, involves using all four strings). Even more astounding was that after playing it through about a dozen times, he turned around and began teaching it to the other older boys gathered around with no input from me. I stepped back and watched him explain this completely new skill without help and without error.
After the novelty of the scale wore off, I slowly played "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" ONCE, making sure Courage could watch my fingers. Without hesitation, he took the violin and played it back to me slowly but correctly.

My jaw literally dropped. I have never seen someone with so much raw, natural talent for music.

Perhaps without having seen Courage in action, it doesn't seem as remarkable as it truly was. But this kid went from having no idea a violin existed, to playing a song on it from memory within 20 minutes. Most people couldn't do that even though they've been exposed to violins their whole life.

He played even better than that, but I think the camera made him nervous.
Anyway, I'm hoping he'll give me lessons in another couple weeks.


  1. That is really amazing!!! I have tried to play Shelby's and there is NO WAY I could do that without a lot of practice!