When I was seven years old, I was learning and performing J.S. Bach’s Double Violin Concerto with my mom. I had also grown into playing a beautiful new violin which had true personality and captured my heart. Now, twenty years later, I am loaning this lovely instrument to the daughter of a family friend.Handing over my violin was a ceremonial occasion where I read out-loud one of my favorite childhood stories: The Jewel Heart by Barbara Berger.In this story, the mute violinist’s soul is expressed through playing music—his heartfelt melodies move the ballerina to dance, and their mutual love is exquisitely expressed through the author’s poetic text and illustrations.I always identified with the little violinist since autism kept me mute for so long, and my struggles in learning to speak and express myself were an ongoing task as I was growing. Playing music was always an outlet for my heart.
Here is an excerpt from my mom’s book, Benjamin Breaking Barriers: Autism—A Journey Of Hope. It marks the occasion where this special instrument (built in New York, 1912) came into my life: We were celebrating Christmas Eve. At the conclusion of our solemn festivities—singing, reciting poetry, and telling the Christmas story—Benjamin made a beeline for the navy-blue violin case which he had spotted hidden under the candle-lit tree. He went after it with great desire, pushing aside the other colorfully wrapped gifts, his eyes glowing in anticipation.Benjamin opened the case and looked reverently at the new instrument, gently touching its surfaces. With awe in his voice, he softly voiced his feelings. “I love my new violin. I’m so happy I have a new violin…” Benjamin immediately requested to play, forgetting all about the other gifts, and I could see his thrill as the new, larger instrument put forth a resonance that far surpassed that of his old quarter-sized one. It truly was a terrific violin, a half-sized instrument, made in 1912, and having a balanced, rich, and silky sound.When Benjamin was ready to put it back in its case, he insisted that I help him with the straps which allowed the case to be worn as a backpack. All evening long, the violin remained on his back as if he were carrying a precious baby. Benjamin kept the instrument by his side during dinner and then, when it was time for bed, he insisted on bringing his violin to bed, cuddling up to it as he prepared to sleep, murmuring, “She’s lovely… I love her…”