remember when I was a kid Iíd hear the orchestra tuning up and
I would get goose bumps. I still get that," Sigrid
Gullickson says. "When I hear them play I can hardly keep
from weeping because it is so moving."
piano is out of proportion in the modest Mequon apartment, but
right-sized for its place in Sigrid Gullicksonís existence.
She draws her
very energy from music, and playing and teaching the violin. "It
has always been my the way that I connect most to my spirit," she
says. Surrounded by books, art and her piano, Gullickson teaches
violin from her apartment to 30 students ages 4 to adult. "In my
teaching I feel it is a very spiritual experience working with the
students because music taps into the spirit," Gullickson says.
"It is kind of a magical thing the first time they touch the
violin bow to the string."
up surrounded by artists and musicians in South Dakota ó her father
was a college music professor and choir director and her mother a
classical soloist and voice teacher. "Our parents didnít allow
us to hear any music that wasnít the best. We werenít allowed to
listen to pop music or rock. But it didnít matter to me because Bach
was my favorite composer anyhow."
violin at Augustana College and at the Hochschule fŁr Musik in
Berlin. "To me it seemed like the perfect life, to do what you
"When I was
a teenager I was very idealistic. When I read, ĎOde on a Grecian Urní
and the line, ĎBeauty is truth, truth beauty,í I remember
thinking, ĎThatís all I need to know. Thatís how I want to live
my life.í Of course, life becomes more complicated, but it has been
in essence what Iíve aspired to and clung to," she says.
On this day,
5-year-old Rachel is learning to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little
Star." Wide-eyed, she looks at the music, then at her teacher,
playing tentatively as Gullickson guides the bow in her hand.
that was beautiful. Thank you," Gullickson says when the song is
"Can we do
it again?" Rachel asks.
see if we can do it again so we can keep moving and hear the song
singing," Gullickson suggests.
She is a gentle,
enthusiastic teacher, praising each success. "I feel itís so
important for the student to do the best they can do and not be
competitive with anyone other than themselves, otherwise it can be so
damaging. It can be motivating for a while, but in the long run itís
not always good. They can lose track of the real reason they love to
teach her students the way she was taught, by "old world men who
were themselves taught in a critical, judgmental way." Instead of
criticism, she enthuses positivity. "I try not to use the word
Ďnoí in my teaching," she says.
recalls a moment early in her teaching career that became a turning
point. "I thought what if I allow myself to just make every
lesson fun and exciting and allow myself to teach with love. I hadnít
always had teachers like that. I became more and more infatuated with
the whole experience and it became more exciting for me. I wanted
every lesson to be an adventure for discovery, not just for the
student but for me."
violin is only part of what motivates Gullickson. The inner peace and
strength she draws from playing the violin is a powerful and emotional
experience for those who hear it. "If I couldnít play myself, I
wouldnít enjoy the teaching," she says. "It would be
one-sided. I need to see the same fulfillment in myself that I see in
inspiration from Shinichi Suzukiís quote about music giving children
a beautiful heart. "I really believe that music keeps us in touch
with what is true, not just in our involvement with the music, but
with all of life. Itís like a guiding light for me."
And to share
that with her students gives Gullickson the true fulfillment of beauty
and truth. M