Chicago celebrity violinist on parenting and lullabies
First-time mom Rachel Barton Pine releases Violin Lullabies CD
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Watch a video of Rachel Barton Pine performing a song from her new lullaby CD at the bottom of this article.
Virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton Pine is known worldwide for the powerful music she coaxes from strings, but these days, she plays especially for an audience of one.
"When I'm thinking about performing and playing music, it's not that I want Sylvia to be proud of my career success-I do hope that she'll be proud of me and what I've done with my life-but I want her to enjoy the music that I am playing. I want her to be able to share that with me because the violin is who I am. I want to give all of myself to Sylvia and that includes the violin," Pine says as she snuggles her 17-month-old daughter on a brief stopover at their Chicago condo.
Sylvia is a dream-come-true for Pine and her husband, Greg.
These days the family-Pine, Greg and Sylvia, along with a nanny-travel the globe on an adventure few can imagine. Pine's intense schedule rarely prevents her from seeing her baby, who she is nursing, so Sylvia has 13 stamps in her passport already.
"I actually feel like wherever we are, that's our home that week because I am bringing my family with me. Home is my family. We share the same adventures," Pine says.
"Having a baby is a whole different kind of an adventure," Pine says.
She hopes her own mom thinks she's a happy, loving, devoted parent. Her youngest sister, Hannah, tells Rachel and Greg they are too calm to be first-time parents. Pine laughs.
"My lifestyle is full of stress. It's happy stress, but there's always surprises, always intensity. We've just really learned to take life as it comes," says Pine, 38. "...Whatever happens, we're just going to go with it, do our best, not let it get us upset."
She and Greg have teamwork down. They are on the same page about raising Sylvia-with one notable exception early on.
Pine is a vegan since birth. Greg is meat-and-potatoes.
She wanted to raise Sylvia as a vegan.
"Greg and I made a deal. He said, 'OK, I won't feed her anything that you don't approve of if you don't dress her in any clothes that I don't approve of.' Therefore there were no matching mom-and-baby metal T-shirts," Pine says.
And she had so looked forward to the Pantera and AC/DC onesies.
"If that's the biggest disagreement as parents, we're pretty lucky," she says.
As Sylvia grows, can she and Greg keep up their intense schedule? "We'll just have to play it by ear," Pine says.
A lot will depend on what Sylvia wants. She could be into academics or athletics-Greg was a minor league pitcher and holds a double major in math and economics-music, or something she'd never expect.
Whatever it is, she says they will support her.
Just like her family did for her.
Music was not a world her parents knew. Her mom anticipated Rachel would take an academic path, into math and science. But the violin enthralled her. By 5, the violin became her identity, with her red hair being her second defining feature, she says.
"Luckily they recognized that I was who I said I was so they supported me. It wasn't easy."
Whether or not Sylvia picks up an instrument-she already has a tiny violin-isn't the point. Pine believes every child should be given an opportunity to play music.
"Who knows, she's a Chicago baby, she might be a blues musician," Pine quips.
Tough answers, life lessons
No stranger to headlines heralding her music and talent, Pine captured the nation's sympathy in 1995 when her violin case became trapped in the doors of a Metra train and she was dragged and pulled under the train.
"I think to the outside world my injuries seem like a very dramatic episode in my life, but everybody has had challenges," she says when asked how she'll explain her injuries to Sylvia one day.
"There's the element of my trauma that I'll have to explain to her in such a way that hopefully it won't give her nightmares and then there's the element of my injuries," Pine says.
But there are many difficult things a parent must explain to their child, she adds, among them death, divorce and the facts of life.
"For me the more challenging aspect to my life history was the financial circumstances of my childhood, that my father wasn't able to support us and all of the difficulties because of that," she says.
"Sometimes we didn't know how we were going to pay for groceries and fill the tank to drive to lessons that week. The phone and electricity were always getting cut off. We were always one payment away from losing the roof over our heads," she says.
At 14, Pine was working to support her mother and sisters.
"In order for my daughter to know me, some day I am going to have to tell her about that in such a way that she will still love and respect grandma and grandpa and understand what they went through."
She's already strategizing ways to help Sylvia grow up with a "healthy understanding of human sexuality and family diversity." It's important she grows up also understanding and supporting marriage equality, she says.
She also wants her daughter to learn generosity, something she so admires in her husband.
She wants to teach Sylvia to "treat life's twists and turns with calmness and perspective. Always looking on the bright side of whatever happens."
Along the way, Pine says she and Greg will be raising her with their values and faith, with tolerance and respect for differences and diversity.
"I want her to have a relationship with music, whatever that ends up meaning for her. I want her to have a relationship with God, whatever that ends up meaning for her. I want to do my best to help guide her towards both of those things in a way that I'm teaching her what I know and believe, but also helping her try and find herself," Pine says.
She'll definitely grow up knowing a diversity of people from this life's adventures.
"She's going to hang out with my heavy metal friends who work construction and she's going to hang out with members of the aristocracy in Europe and she's going to hang out with everybody in between."
Watching Pine play on the floor with Sylvia after just performing a stunning version of Brahm's Lullaby, there's no doubt she's a really good mom.
She smiles at that thought.
"I'm also realistic enough to realize that no matter how hard I try that there are going to be things that I get wrong or that my daughter decides that I've gotten wrong," Pine says. "I'm already steeling myself for living with that. Hopefully she'll forgive me my flaws and I'll forgive her her flaws and we'll be friends till the end."
Lullabies and violins
Of course, music always is present in their lives.
Just moments after Sylvia was born, Pine sang her a lullaby, "Summertime," which is featured on her new CD of never-before collected lullabies, Violin Lullabies.
An avid collector of sheet music, Pine noticed long ago that many composers had written lullabies. She filed that knowledge away until she had a baby.
Tracking down the music became a treasure hunt since many of the lullabies were long out of print. After Sylvia was born, she would nurse while Pine searched the web. Pine gathered and played them all, ending up with more than 150.
Twenty-five made the cut for the CD, with a 2-week-old Sylvia cradled in her daddy's arms on the cover.