Nanny McPhee lives upstairs

For the past 2 months, I have been looking around for a a violin teacher for B and it has not been easy. Hubby and me are both trained in piano and for me, I want to give her a different musical experience compared to mine. Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that my parents gave me the opportunity to learn music but I hope I can improve B’s experience of it.

You see, I studied piano up to Grade 7 on the ABRSM method but honestly, my competency is way below that.  I am not a gifted musician. Whatever I play, if well,  takes tons of practice. Add some laziness to take (hey, when you are a kid if you had to choose between watching cartoons and playing the piano, which one would you choose? No brainer, right?) So every year, I would be playing those 3 exam pieces and some scales thrown in. I don’t know what on earth my mother thought – “I’m paying to hear 3 songs a year??!!” or my poor grandparents – I remember, my dad was either delusional about my skill or perhaps he thought maybe he could escape some conversation with them, always asked me to play the piano when they came visiting. Now, this is not ( I repeat NOT) a fun thing for any kid but since I was a compliant child I would always oblige.   Of course being compliant doesn’t mean you can’t throw in some subversive behavior in the spanner. So for half an hour, I would probably play my 3 song repertoire and THEN play my scales… over and over again.  Nobody ever complained but I don’t recall receiving any compliments either.

So anyway, last evening, we were out at our playground when I heard some really beautiful playing on the violin. I looked up and, it was coming from one of the apartments next to the playground. The playing was really skillful ( at least from the little I know about string music, which probably consist of some teenage-hood attendance of  the Penang Symphony Orchestra  where me and my friends would use binoculars to also feast our eyes on the drool worthy  first violin player – who was probably the only one we could spy on most clearly with our cheapo binoculars. Yes, while our parents thought they were exposing us to high culture, we were engaging in ogling activities).

So I told B, let’s be bold and ask where this person learns violin from. It was with some trepidation that we took the lift and approached the door.

Ding-dong! went the bell.

“Qin Lai!”

Me and B looked at each other. It seemed a bit weird that a stranger would ask you to go in, through their unlocked grill door without coming to see who was there. I felt a bit like Hansel and Gretel, entering someone’s home.

We walked in and there were 3 persons, a lady in jeans, an old lady in  a faded mickey mouse house dress with her hair wrapped up in a pink towel and a young girl, about 8 or 9 years old.

I turned to the younger woman and said “So sorry to trouble you but I heard very nice violin playing and wanted to ask where does your child learn from?”

Instead of her answering, the old lady answered… ” She learns here.”

I turn to her and trying very hard not to gasp, saw the Asian version of Nanny McPhee minus the mole and bucktooth.

nanny mcphee

Nanny McPhee was the violin lau shi (teacher).  The younger woman was a mother accompanying her daughter to the violin lesson.

As she explained the set up, I tried to arrange for a trial lesson for B to see if she had chemistry with the teacher. She seemed quite all right and the fact that I didn’t have to drive her to her lesson was a real bonus.

B turned around and she looked like this. I kid you not. The expression was exactly this.


I was actually quite proud that she handled her anxiety by asking “You will be coming with me, right?”

We did come back later for what I assumed would be a trial lesson but there seemed to be some language communication problem (my Mandarin is probably worst than B’s at this point and the teacher could only speak Mandarin). It turned out that she wanted to see if B could hold the violin.  In the end, we were concern that the language barrier prevent us from understanding what the instructions were and how could we do the Suzuki method where parents had to help the child if we couldn’t understand what the teacher wanted?

So it’s back to the drawing board for now.





  1. How many enrichment programmes does a child need? - Royal Rae - October 10, 2014

    […] Violin was also another enrichment that we felt  it was important to get the teacher right from the start because wrong posture and fingering can be hard to undo later on. It’s quite a distance to get there but hopefully she will get a good start and we can switch to a teacher who just lives upstairs!  […]

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