It looks cruel to me now– the photos of my four year old boy with a violin crooked under his neck. We did the group lessons, the workshops, the charts and flashcards, listened to recorded pieces almost constantly, practiced as Shinichi Suzuki suggested, “only on the days you eat” which included holidays and vacations. Tiger Momma had nothing on me in those days.


For the most part, Stefan thrived on the discipline, sailed through the curriculum and was playing the Bach Double with Ben by third grade (though not quite on the level of Stern and Mintz). His progress (along with everything in our family) slowed down a bit with Mary’s arrival, but violin has been a constant in his life for more than thirteen years. It’s a good gig– have you ever walked into an orchestra room?- dozens of gorgeous, polite girls fill the chairs; firm friendships are created and there is the innate satisfaction of adding more beauty to the world. Anytime Stefan is stressed or worried, he comes home and picks up the violin, filling the house with concertos, allegros and sometimes, often, theme music from Harry Potter or Star Wars.

On this night, Stefan’s efforts at the violin redoubled. More than anything, he wanted to participate in Concerto Night. With his extraordinary teacher, he auditioned several pieces, settled on his concerto and got to work. For the past twenty months, he has rehearsed two to three hours a day– when our family settles down to watch a movie, he slips off to the office to practice his scales, he’s become a familiar fixture for my running friends– his silhouette through the window as he practices at 6 a.m.


Our school is a magnet for college professors who want the best high school experience for their children and for all the old music families who train generations of prodigies. Living in this unique little pocket of musical and academic talent; we knew the competition would be fierce. And Stefan’s year is the most talented batch of kids we’ve ever seen– dozens of bright, good kids who’ve devoted themselves to notes and scales.

As the audition crept closer, Stefan increased his practicing to three to four hours a day, he studied scales for perfect intonation, sang the piece for more musicality, worked with his teacher on dynamics and showmanship; Praeludium and Allegro has more than a thousand listens in our iTunes account. Every night he performed it for us and in the last few days before the audition he stopped by each of our neighbors homes to practice playing for an audience. All this while finishing college and scholarship applications, Sterling Scholar, six AP classes and taking the SAT for the National Merit Scholar contest.

In typical Stefan fashion, he was cheerful and calm about everything; the audition went well and he said the judges cheered at the end: “That was incredible!” “How can a person move his fingers so quickly?”

So he wasn’t nearly as nervous as I when the list was posted yesterday.

And his name wasn’t on it.

He called me, delivered the news matter-of-factly and went off to rehearse in the pit for the school musical (which is where he is again– all day long on a Saturday). Because that’s what instrumentalists do– they play in the dark, beneath the stage, while others stand in the spotlight.

Later, he came home and we all cried and raged a bit. Why? He’s not the only disappointed one: his friend Danny, who seemed like a shoo-in with his flawless Tchaikovsky, was also passed over, the first chair cellist didn’t earn a spot, all the brass were left out.

It’s a different sort of disappointment when you have truly done your best. Stefan stood with his hands out, “I couldn’t have done anything more.” We’ve all had times when we threw something together, didn’t get the award and knew it was our own darn fault, but to have worked so hard, for so long– it’s heartbreaking.

Oh, I know there’s a silver lining. His increased determination these past years have made him a much better violinist. But I also know what happens to boy violinists in college. The path to a career becomes so intense that music, by necessity, slips to the side. Concerto Night would have been a marvelous opportunity to celebrate his work of the past thirteen years.

Stefan will certainly have other successes; I believe that everyone who works hard and lives with a kind heart has delights and surprises beyond their imagination in their future.

Sure, we have to buck up, count our blessings and move on. We need to congratualte the kids who made it and Stefan has to learn all of their concertos to accompany them come March. But for now, I am sorrowful. My mother heart wants every happiness for him. We could certainly use some kind words; I could use a mother of my own.

November 11, 2011
November 13, 2011



  1. cristie

    November 12, 2011

    so so sorry for your disappointment.

    it stinks. it’s the pits. dang. xox

  2. Mormon Women: Who We Are

    November 13, 2011

    This hurts my momma heart.

    And my friend heart, too.


  3. jennie w.

    November 13, 2011

    Man, my kids are losers.

  4. Lisa

    November 13, 2011

    Deja-vu all over again from this Momma. It broke our hearts when Dione auditioned for Concerto Night and wasn’t selected so we know exactly how you must feel. There isn’t anything I really can say to make it better…other than just go ahead and feel bad for a while.

    If it’s any consolation, tell Stefan that Dione is now in her 2nd year of law school, has a job when she graduates in two years, and just purchased her first piano (Ok it’s an old one, haha). She couldn’t be more happy!

    Love you my friend!

  5. Selwyn

    November 13, 2011

    Aw, bloody hell, that result’s rubbish 🙁

    I’m sorry. Hugs.

  6. Lizzy

    November 13, 2011

    That is simply sad, especially when Stefan couldn’t have done any more.

  7. Linn

    November 13, 2011

    Blast, I’m so sorry. How many of your faithful followers would it take to storm the castle and change the results? Because I’m there.

    I’m just so sorry for Stefan and for all of you. Sending love from Boston…

  8. Tracy

    November 13, 2011

    I ache. I’m so so sorry. This hurts a mother heart.

  9. TheOneTrueSue

    November 14, 2011

    Oh, this just made my heart ache – for you and your boy.

  10. Kerri

    November 14, 2011

    Michelle, I wish I didn’t know just how Stefan feels. But I do. And I know a little of how you feel, but not totally, because none of my children have worked as hard as Stefan has for a goal of that immensity. This post broke my heart for both of you.

    But I have a story that might help. One of my dreams was to solo with an orchestra. When I was in college, one of my dreams w I wanted more than anything to play on their version of Concerto Night. I figured it was my last shot. And I worked and worked and worked and worked. And didn’t get chosen. I was so sad. I mean really sad. Then three years later, the Lord worked through His mysterious ways and I ended up being featured soloist for a full concerto, not a concerto movement, and with an orchestra in California, not with a college orchestra. I realized looking back that the Lord wanted to give me the desires of my heart, but that he did it in His own time.

    A suggestion…if Stefan wants to play with an orchestra, start looking at all of the concerto competitions around…not just close by, either. Ask your teacher, look online. This is one that would be good next year (or maybe you could call and beg for a late entry…?): http://www.jeffersonsymphonyorchestra.org/young_artists/
    Or this one for next summer:

    Anyway, I’m super super sad for both of you.

  11. Kerri

    November 15, 2011

    Oh, and make sure he plans to do a senior recital, too, so he can show off all his hard work.

  12. Jan Russell

    November 15, 2011

    My boys can’t even play hot cross buns on the recorder…I seriously need to tap my inner tiger mama…

    I’m so sorry that Stefan’s talent and hard work weren’t recognized with a spot for concerto night. Very disappointing and frustrating 🙁

  13. Michaela Stephens

    November 18, 2011

    I’m sorry. That is so hard. It feels like “Where do I go from here?” and it hurts. I’ve had some experience with that too.

    I also want to thank Keri for her encouraging words. They give hope for anyone who has worked long and hard for something and yet has been disappointed.

  14. Jeanelle

    November 22, 2011

    I fell behind on my blog commenting lately so I just now saw this and I’m sad I didn’t comment sooner. I’m so very sorry for Stefan and for all of you because knowing how close you all are, you all felt his disappointment deeply. Hopefully the pain has eased some. The experience, while painful, will also help him when he’s on his mission — doing all he can to help someone gain a testimony and then have them walk away, for example. Some things are just so out of our control (you and I know that entirely too well.) It’s just sad when kids have to learn it at such a young age. xoxo

  15. Jenny Hatch

    November 30, 2011

    Thanks for sharing…

    a new reader who linked from Segullah,

    Jenny Hatch

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