August 21, 2008 at 7:56 AMThe vast majority of violinists who play for money in the US play in local, regional orchestras. I really enjoy hearing about the stories of our core musicians – how they may live in an area with no major city and make it work, maybe having come to the world of violin through a back door or by sheer grit and determination, but I just love learning about the adventures of real people who make this art come alive. It is great to go to hear a concert by a major orchestra and especially to hear a world-class artist. But the truth is that many of us A) do not live near enough to a major city to make that happen, or B) can’t really afford to go to these. So maybe identifying with others in this unique field - it takes an entirely different level of commitment when the nearest city is 60 minutes from your house - makes me feel closer to home.
I consider myself a professional musician as I have made my living from music for many years now, albeit from a combination of performing and teaching. Now that I have the good fortune to live and work in Shanghai I count it as one of many blessings to be able to attend great concerts easily. This was never the case in my life before moving here. I can count on one hand the concerts of great violinists I have ever heard in person. Yet I can say that I have performed violin and viola probably at least a thousand times, in just about every venue imaginable, at home and abroad. And unlike major orchestras in the states, major orchestras here in China do not pay that well. Teaching music in an international school I am able to actually have a more comfortable (and fun) life than playing in a big orchestra here or performing gigs and teaching in schools in the states. The only thing I am struggling with really is saying “no” to playing gigs I really don’t want. It is nice to be in a good enough place in my life where I don’t have to take playing jobs that don’t fit.
I love to hear the best of the best but I truly admire those among us who maybe live in a rural area and do what it takes to have a violin life. So here is a big shout out to people who play – especially string playing friends in rural eastern Washington or wherever you may be – who shell out the gas to make the effort to teach students and play live music for weddings and events! Kudos to you for your commitment to this lifestyle. If you feel like posting a comment, I would love to know anything about the feats you endure to have a violin life outside the metropolis.
Sometimes I play a piece I have rehearsed, but what I find most challenging is absorbing my surroundings and improvisationally play music to it like a movie soundtrack. Maybe it is how a woman walks or how the clouds
may part for a brief flash of sunshine
on a cloudy day. It makes one really tune in to what is happening and anticipate what could be about to happen and make the moment special.
Just so merchants don't feel like I showed up, got money which might have been spent on them, and then leave, I
usually spend all my earnings on produce
before I go.
I'd like to see something happen like
( look for it on YouTube, if you don't
know ) in which orchestras just show up
in a rural area where there are a few people, perform, and leave.
A documentary on "underground" music in America would be interesting.
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