My violin story – why I love Classical music

Let’s take a little detour from visual influence and talk about another powerful influence in the arts – music!

A little know fact about me is that I’ve played violin since I was three. It’s a sad story. Basically I took a shine to playing right away. I practiced A LOT. It was my first obsession. I was good. I grew up near Madison and so when I got old enough (6th grade) I auditioned for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra — and I got in! So I spent three wonderful years climbing the ranks there, playing in big concert halls, going to Orchestra camp in the summer, playing duets with my other violin friends on State Street for pizza money, etc. Until one day, when I was 14 (Freshman in H.S.) I decided to quit violin altogether. Just like that. And my parents didn’t even argue. 11 years — basically my entire life — of practicing violin religiously came to an abrupt halt. Sad, sad, sad. If only I could go back and slap my dumb 14-year-old self in the face. I was really good! Good enough that if I would have kept going with it, I could be playing professionally now.

self portrait with violin

 

Don’t ask me why I quit. I was trying to figure myself out and I guess quitting violin was a way to re-invent myself. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and because of the big fat mess that was my life from ages 15-23,  I rarely picked up my violin for 10 years. The last few of those years I didn’t even own a violin anymore (my gorgeous, expensive, violin ended up in a pawn shop). This brings us up to 4 years ago….

When I picked it back up.

Talk about a life-changing experience. By this time in my life, I was dating my future husband. My life was back in order, things were looking hopeful again. I had gone back to college for art. I was on the right path. Brandon and I went to an art fair and there was a Wisconsin Public Radio booth and they had a bunch of violins sitting there for people to pick up and try to play. He had heard me talk about my violin playing so he told me to go play. I was hesitant since I hadn’t played in such a long time, but thought I could remember at least something (I was scared). A teenager and I went for the full size violin at the same time. I let her take it first, thinking to myself, “This is going to be good!” and doubting if I could follow up her act. I was remembering how I could play at that age. She played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! So when she was done, I thought, “Well, I can do better than that!” and attempted to play a very rough version of Concerto in A Minor by Vivaldi. But it drew a crowd. And I muddled through it. And I walked away from there with my heart beating out of my chest and my soul filled to the brim — and Brandon walked away trying to pick his jaw up off the ground. He had no idea I could actually play.

I went home and immediately started looking online for a violin. I was so excited and revved up. We had no money at the time, but I found a decent one on Ebay to start practicing with. It was so bittersweet when that violin arrived. It was completely different trying to play as an adult. There is more clutter in the mind, I think, and I was soooooo rusty. Just trying to re-learn the pieces that I had perfected before was quite depressing. I cried and cried, thinking about all the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. I had been able to play these songs perfectly at 14 and here I was in my late 20s missing notes. Luckily, my sister’s boyfriend gifted his grandfather’s violin to me last year — a beautiful instrument with a great tone. My violin and I have become friends again, and now I’m just thankful that I have this ability and that I did pick it back up all these years later. I can take it for what it is — something that I do for myself — and it feels great as long as I don’t attach any expectations onto it. I don’t need to be 1st chair anymore. I just need to be me.

I really am thankful to my parents who did so much for me those 11 years of my childhood when I seriously played the violin — it instilled a deep love and appreciation for Classical music and especially the violin that I will have in my heart for the rest of my life. I also think that being classically trained in music helped develop the right side of my brain and was a huge influence, albeit subconsciously, on my art abilities. I am also thankful for the skill to continue with my violin journey, even if only as an amateur.

{sidenote: I love the definition of amateur. Often used in a negative way, as in “lacking the skill of a professional”, the word actually derives from the French meaning “to do for the love of”}

Even if you think you hate Classical music, I encourage you to watch this amazing TED talk (via Ellen Rosewall – thanks!). It will convince you otherwise! I cried during half of it (in a good way)!

 

Moral of the story? Pick back up that instrument you played as a child. Or pick up a new instrument. Or maybe your instrument is your voice. You have the time, yes you do. Practicing connects us to the music at a such a deep, intense level — everybody should experience it this way.

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