A beautiful dress, big smile, few tiny steps and young Nicole is already next to me. She tells me about Modo’s Masterclass she is attending and about all the pieces she has learnt to play on the harp. Her father Peter and her mother, Maria join her and one can immediately feel how proud they are with the little musician.
MODO: Was there classical music in your family?
Maria: I’m not involved in the musical circles, but Nicole sparked my interest and now we educate ourselves together. When I was a young girl we listened to disco music. I haven’t listened much rock music, mostly pop. I remember trying to listen to classical music on the radio but it didn’t capture me. I always turned on the radio as background to everything I was doing. But I’m not musical. When I was young, I played the accordion for three years.
Peter: I’ve played a musical instrument when I was young. In a way, it wasn’t entirely voluntary – my grandfather had insisted I became a violinist. I did it all – lessons, ear training. I was even told that I’m very good at it, but it was never close to my heart.
MODO: How old were you?
Peter: As old as Nicole. Five-seven years old.
MODO: Was your grandfather a musician?
Peter: No, he has just decided that I have to be a violinist. I was taking private lessons and they were expensive back then. Also visiting music centres and so on. But as every child, I was more attracted to the ball and the football, so in first grade, while I was attending at least fifteen more classes, my parents decided it was too much and we dropped out the music.
MODO: How come your grandfather decided to make you a musician?
Peter: I have no idea.
Maria: Didn’t you have musicians in your family?
Peter: Yes, we did, but in this case it was different – he wanted me and my cousin to become musicians. She plays the piano and is currently a musician in Belgium. She graduated from the music school and the Conservatoire. His dream was for her to be on the piano and me – on the violin. He sponsored and encouraged us. It worked for her, but not for me.
Maria: Parents always have ambitions for their children.
MODO: How did you discover Nicole’s interest in music?
Maria: Since she was little people were telling me she has a great sense of rhythm and is very musical. Actually, a friend of mine whose son is a musician sent us an invitation for a Pillow Concert and we started attending. Our first one was the Christmas Pillow Concert “Carnival of the animals” at the Military club. She enjoyed it very much, so we continued visiting. There we learned about Modo. Firstly, we visited the Music Circle group while you had it and in the summer I signed her up for the Summer Music School. It was only for a week, but we gradually found out that it shouldn’t be for only one and there we are.
Peter: At home she is singing, dancing, listening to music, we have microphones, various headphones. Her older sister is a music fan and generally she influences her a lot. When she was her age, she played the piano at her own will. But she, too, just like me, lost her enthusiasm. Now she shows Nicole from time to time that she has played, too. It becomes a little competitive, but Nicole is the more ambitious one.
MODO: Nicole, which one is your favourite musical instrument?
Nicole: The harp.
MODO: Why the harp?
Nicole: Because it has a very beautiful sound.
Maria: Can I add to her answer? Last year, during the summer school, she could choose two musical instruments and she chose the harp and the flute, then from September she started taking piano lessons, too. When we signed up for the Sunday school, again, she had to pick up two instruments and the harp had a priority.
MODO: Do you have a favourite Pillow Concert?
Nicole: Yes. (She pulls out a folder with programmes from all concerts)
Maria: We collect the programmes. Of course, the harp concert – It was so tender and exciting, I truly hope you will repeat it. Back then, I didn’t know much about the harp, so now I want to see it again, from a different point of view.
MODO: What do you actually like about the Pillow Concerts? What is your brightest memory?
Maria: I like that children are free to do what they want: some are dancing, some are drawing, the youngest ones are trying to walk, to touch the instruments and this is a challenge for the organizers. But I think you manage to find the golden mean very well – what is allowed and what is not. This is how children are brought up. Our brightest memory is from the Zoo Pillow Concert with all the stories and tales about the animals and Kosse Bosse. We acted out a scene during the concert, while listening.
MODO: Do you find your child changed in some way since you started attending the concerts?
Maria: Actually, this is what I like, that the Pillow Concert is an entrance ticket to the classical music for Nicole and thanks to her I also meet the classical music and learn about various instruments.
Peter: It is really nice that it uses untraditional approaches and young people participate, because children feel the young people closer to themselves, they are not afraid and stressed out. Because, indeed, there are many good musicians, pedagogues but in the beginning when you need to capture the children’s attention it is better to have young people because of the mentality and understanding. It is easier for the children to feel the musicians in this way. Not to bump on someone that never stops repeating “Study! Stay still! Don’t move! Listen! Remember!”
Maria: You always say: “Now, let the children show their parents what we should do during a concert – keep silent.” The other thing I notice are the scripts you make up. There is always a tale, a story that is connected to the music. And even if it is not directly matched with the piece as they are still too young to understand, you try to include everything in the context of the story. Oh, I want to mention the Zoo Pillow Concert again – everything I like about your concerts was part of it. I really liked the Opera Pillow Concert as well.
Nicole: Me, too. Actually, these two are my favourite ones. (Nicole gives me the programmes from the Pillow Concert for flute, harp and marimba and the Opera Pillow Concert.)
MODO: If you have to make up a Pillow Concert, what would it be?
Maria: It will definitely include marimba, harp and flute. And there will be a dance in the script, a part where the children will be invited to dance together. Now I’m thinking that perhaps the presenter can show certain steps which all children can repeat making a joint dance together.
Our conversation was coming to its end and with his big smile Peter decided to tell us something that he intentionally kept for the final.
Peter: I’ll tell you a nice story to which you greatly contributed. I was recently having an anniversary and Nicole surprised me by playing Happy Birthday. She have been secretly learning it at home while I was not there.
Nicole: I was listening to it on headphones, so you wouldn’t know!
Peter: They performed it with a friend of hers: she was playing, he was singing. They really surprised me and they were so well synchronized that everyone was impressed.
Nicole: We also played the “Ode to Joy”.
Maria: They were really cute.
Peter: I was stunned.
Maria: And they did it without warning us. They were playing together and when I told them it was time for the cake, she went to the piano, sat down, he picked up the microphone and it happened. This is why I want to thank Modo, for giving us the opportunity to feel many things – various musical formats for children – and I wish you inspiration and time for rest. These things need to be alternated, so you can feel great.
Peter:I will only say that when you do something with love, someone up there is watching, helping and everything happens in a better way.
Interview by Didi Brankova, Pillow Concerts’ coordinator.
Photography by Minko Minev, http://minkominev.com