I have just read this article at DAMUSA about children attending violin lessons at the welcome class (modtagerklasse) in Morsø, a town -actually an island- in the northern part of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. The article suggests that children have been able to learn violin by following the music, even though they could not speak any Danish at the beginning and as a result they learned both the instrument and the language.
A similar story can be told from my daughter Rebeca. She started taking flute lessons soon after we arrived to Denmark. She played the instrument for one year before we arrived and brought the flute with her. I thought it would be better for her to learn Danish first, in order to communicate with the music teacher, so I didn’t ask for a place at the music school upon arrival. However, as Far (my Danish dad) — who is a teacher— heard this, he told me quite the opposite, that music is a language in itself and can be embraced regardless of the spoken language.
He was right. Rebeca started lessons at Kolding Musikskole with Erik Meyland –an incredibly patient and skilled teacher– in October 2013. I went to the first two lessons, and was asked to translate a little bit as Rebeca did not speak Danish nor English at that time. She had just turned 9. On the next lesson, I waited for her outside the class. It went well. The next class I could not be there as I had a course elsewhere, and she went with her dad; no translation was required at all. Afterwards she has gone by her own. As my Far said: it is another language. Rebeca has attended flute lessons for 2 ½ years in Denmark. Last year she started playing at the Junior Wind Band and at the beginning of this year ,she was promoted to the Wind Band where children 12-15 perform.
She enjoys playing flute, tværfløjte. I am not sure that there is a direct relation between her music and language skills, but maybe there is. She was able to attend and follow flute lessons without knowing Danish, and nowadays she knows music terms in Danish and not in Spanish. But she will probably find out the missing words when we get back home. As said, it is a different language that needs not to be equated with spoken language.
My older daughter Avelina, has learned to play celtic harp while in Denmark. It was a happy infortune when she started. She had played piano for 3 years at home and pursued to continue here, but there were no available teachers for piano lessons. She was on the waiting list at the music school for an entire year. When the next year started, there were still no open places available. Rebeca’s flute final concert was held at the botanical garden (Geografisk Haven), where a group of harp students performed before the flutes.
I went to the school’s webpage and found out that for starting harp lessons it was suggested to have at least one or two years of piano lessons. It was just perfect. Harp lessons were until then just in Odense, but the webpage mentioned that if there were enough students, lessons could be arranged in Kolding. Avelina liked the idea.
The last 2 years harp lessons take place each 15 days in Kolding, with the enthusiast harpist Anne-Marie Høst. For two consecutive years, has Avelina attended the harp encounter (Store Harpedag) with more than 30 harpists, in Fuglsang manor on Lolland (in the neighbourhood of my Danish parents, who have sat on the first row each time!).
This year she joined Kolding’s Renaissance Band and performed at Roskilde’s Cathedral for a month ago. She has attended two harp workshops, one of Celtic harp with the Scottish harpist Rachel Hair in Odense and another on Latin-American harp with Colombian harpist Natalia Castrillón, who studies in Århus and will be performing this summer at the Jazz Festival in Århus. Both workshops have been held in English. Avelina speaks good English, Danish, Spanish and … harp.