Parents hit the right chord
Chris Sandvoss is a dad who believes music is as important as science, and physical activity is as important as art.
“We turn on the music, we dance, we draw, we paint, we play make-believe,” says Sandvoss, whose son Tilman is six and daughter Sabina is three.
“They have a very vivid imagination, and we go out into the forest and look for Heffalumps and Woozles, and dinosaur bones — we have make-believe dinosaur digs on our property. And we do fort building and gardening.”
This kind of approach to parenting means Sandvoss’s children are trying their hand at some amazing things. Tilman, for example, got to make a violin when he was four.
Sandvoss, a violin maker based in West Bragg Creek, was hard at work on a violin, and Tilman decided he wanted to make a violin, too. So his father cut out a piece of solid wood in the shape of a violin, and they worked on their instruments together.
At the end of the process, as his dad was varnishing his violin, Tilman wanted to varnish his instrument as well. So his father asked him to get his paints and glitter glue, and Tilman proceeded to paint his violin in a multitude of colors. It’s now hanging in his father’s studio beside the work bench.
“It’s the most adorable thing,” Sandvoss says.
Not only does Tilman have that make-believe violin that he made himself, he has recently started taking violin lessons (on a real violin). He loves it, says his dad, and practises every day.
Tilman’s teacher is John Lowry, associate concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist with the Land’s End Chamber Ensemble. Tilman also studies piano.
Sabina is learning about music, too: she has studied music with Suzuki Early Childhood Education, and will start the Kodaly Method this fall.
Music is extremely important in this family: Sandvoss is both a violinist and violist; his wife, Beth Root Sandvoss, is a cellist who has performed and taught all over the world. She now teaches at Mount Royal College and the University of Calgary, and performs with the Land’s End Chamber Ensemble and the University of Calgary String Quartet.
Whatever the family does, Sandvoss says, the children’s interests are paramount.
“It’s very important that I create excitement and curiosity about the world around them,” he says. “It’s my job as a parent to introduce them to the incredible world we live in, to cre- ate a sense of awe, a sense of curiosity and a thirst for knowledge.”
So they go to places like art galleries and museums — not only to learn about art and ancient history, but also about things like science and aviation — anything to do with knowledge.
“Everything that includes knowledge and understanding is fair game — everything,” says Sandvoss, who is as big a fan of hockey and other sports as he is of classical music and culture.
“They need to understand their physical health is critical to them — they need to be physically active.”
To this end, both Tilman and Sabina take ballet. Ballet can benefit boys just as much as it does girls, says Sandvoss, noting that any kind of dance creates great body awareness.
Actor Patrick Swayze and American football great Herschel Walker are just two examples of high achievers who have benefited from studying ballet.
“If ballet is good enough for Herschel Walker, it’s good enough for my son,” Sandvoss says. “It’s great for athletics, it’s great for mobility and for creating a sense of rhythm and physical self-expression.”
Sandvoss also believes it’s very important for his children to treat humans — and all other living creatures — with kindness and respect. “Being in nature really helps instill an awareness of the sacred balance of life.”