Friday, May 31, 2013

The Violin maker of Cremona

We are in Italy for a week, back in Como our lovely Lombardian city. This time it is so nice to have my parents also with us and like every other year we just decide every morning which city or town do we drive into and explore. Cremona kindled our interest because of several beautiful traditions associated with the place and especially because it was renowned as a center of musical instrument manufacture.

Cremona is where we met Carlos. Carlos is from Argentina originally, he is a violin and chello maker living in the beautiful city of Cremona. Carlos came to Cremona 25 years ago for a 2 week artisans course on restoring violins. But the 2 weeks turned into 25 years and now he is one of the luthiers making his living creating new violins and Chellos for musicians coming to this city from different parts of the world.

Carlos was kind enough to show us how he moulds the spruce wood into the desired shape. The wood used in making a violin is seasoned for many years. It was very clear that making a violin requires great patience and it was also obvious that Carlos had a lot of patience as he nicely explained all the details of the art to eager tourists like us. I just loved gazing at all the intricate instruments he used and was thinking about how he would have used those instruments to mould the instruments of musicians playing in different parts of the world.

He was happy to hear that we lived close to Heidelberg as his good friend Babette who also graduated from the university of Cremona is a renowned violin maker living in the beautiful town of Schwetzingen. We were delighted and though none of us are musicians or Violin players we decided to go visit Babette when we are back home on one of the weekends. Such a small world and you always end up making a connection which makes the place such a beautiful memory.

Next time I see somebody playing a violin or a chello I am sure to think about Cremona and ponder if the instrument was made in Cremona and if Carlos had a hand in it :-)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Getting educated about the Education system

D had organized a session on the education system in Germany via the Interkulturelles Zentrum in Heidelberg. If you would be interested in having a similar session conducted then you can reach out to the IZ i.g. and they will be happy to organize a session for you. I found the session extremely informative and honest about the positives and the negatives in the system. Some of the key takeaways I took away from the session:

1) The German education system is quite complex so it is important that you figure out how the system works and how you can work with it

2) There are different paths a child can take – important – not all roads lead to Rome sorry A levels or Abitur I mean….hmm

3) Grades are important from third grade – very important if you want your child to attend grammar school!

4) Your target for grammar school should be grades better than 2.5 with 1 being outstanding. More on the academic grading in Germany can be found in this informative Wikipedia link. Thank God for Wikipedia!

5) If you want to send your child to a private grammar school or the so called ‘Privat Gymnasium’ then you need even better grades!

6) Grades are not just based on the results of the exams conducted or the content that your child reads or writes as part of the standard curriculum – but the grades are based on the overall aptitude of the child and his/her all-round personality and development. In quotes this also means ‘no one has a freaking idea on how your child got a particular grade’ sometimes this is also referred to as the Pedagogic grade ;-)

7) Make sure that you meet with your child’s teachers atleast twice in a year and understand where your child stands and how he/she is being rated and how he/she is doing in class. I mean of course you would do this and get invited to the usual annual meetings but use these opportunities to get your questions answered and make sure you clearly understand how your child is fairing in class.

8) Support your child at home – the whole education system is based on a contract between school, parent and child. You will have a better support system from a private school, but trust me you need to work with your child and make sure how he/she is doing in school. Get involved, NOW!

9) Fluency in German is critical for success! So make sure that you create the right environment for your child so that he/she is exposed to native German. You don’t have to start speaking to your child in German, but of course audio CDs, books, music classes, and friends all these mediums help. Comprehension of the spoken language is very important. In case you still think none of this is working then make sure you get additional help like tuitions also known as ‘Nachhilfe’ in Deutsch

10) Reach out into your network of other parents, like in everything else you learn more if you network more. Use your network to better understand the options and what are the pros and cons of each option. Oops, not to forget if your child is extremely gifted 'hochbegabte' and has an IQ of 140 or above then you don’t need to bother with any of this :-)