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Focusing the Kaleidoscope

October 7, 2008 at 3:04 AM

I opened an early birthday present today. My son and his family live several hours away, and he is up visiting, so brought the gift with him. My beloved daughter-in-law was most eager that I open it up, and so I did. While I might wish to savor my last few weeks of being 'in my 40's', it looks like reality is insisting on barging its way in with a loud voice, elbows flailing. I'll soon be 50..whoa.

The numbers haven't usually meant much before...I'm one of those who was heard to declare with a loud voice to any who would listen that I've loved my 40's, and wouldn't go back to my 30s for anything. And yet, this birthday, coming where it does, screams out for me to take a giant-step back and try to focus the kaleidoscope a bit.

My mom died a few months ago. My beloved youngest child is in her last year at home. I am in the middle of a graduate degree and preparing to change directions in the work world. These are all really big adjustments. And while I've been doing a good job of just putting my head down and walking forward, I can feel myself grinding to a halt here lately. Must be time for reflection.

What has the first half of my adulthood looked like, and what do I want the second to be? What a huge question. You could not have told me even 10 years ago what my life would look like at 50. Or maybe even 5 years ago. That makes it a bit daunting to look ahead.

I had a revelatory moment this weekend. Our local symphony was playing a concert, and I, being somewhat unhappy with the way things are being managed there had decided that it was probably a good time for me to take some time off. It's a volunteer group, so no pay, no contracts, etc. However, at the last minute, hearing of the desperate straits of the violin section, I decided to help out. This was an all-Gershwin concert, and the music was none too easy.

When I got there, I realized that 'desperate straits' was an understatement, and promply found myself sitting in the front stand of 2nd violins. I usually sit in the middle of the firsts. So much for my hope of 'merely' contributing ...now I had to 'lead'.

As background, I will note that the symphony is undergoing some changes, and many of us are pretty unhappy with the way things are being run. Some decisions seem almost calculated to make us feel taken for granted and unappreciated. So, I've been really fighting with whether I even wanted to play this year. As I showed up for my first rehearsal, I was handed a letter informing us that the board had taken another step that served to demoralize.

In this setting then, I was dragging myself 30 miles from home and across the border all weekend long for rehearsals and concert. I could have been home for the first time in weeks. I am desperately behind on a paper that is way overdue for my class. I have a studio of over 30, a church job and a youth orchestra. Now I even had to find time to really work the music, since I was first stand...THEN get what seemed like a slap in the face from management to boot. But, I had committed...so I went.

And, the concert was awesome. I had a blast. The music was fun, the soloist was great, and I loved playing most of it. (There are those sections however, in American in Paris.....:).


When I freeze this weekend for a moment to examine it, I see way more than the weekend itself, or even the emotions all wrapped around it. I find myself looking at it as one who, at almost 50, was a late-comer to the instrument. I never touched a violin until I was 36. As I freeze-frame the weekend, I ask myself: How did I get from the place where I was eager to learn to play any 'real' song at all to where I am irritated by the fact that my local orchestra really needs me there to provide leadership? What sorts of tiny steps have I taken along the way that have allowed me to become impatient and irritated and feeling taken-for-granted? Are you kidding me? I make my living as a full-time musician. How have I lost the wonder of that?

So, at 50 (almost) I need to stop and wrap my arms around what is. May I linger on it a moment and (like Emily's quote said) grab the wonder out of the ordinary.
[EDIT]

From Paul G.
Posted on October 7, 2008 at 3:29 AM
I found your blog very interesting to read!
I think we can all relate in a way.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 7, 2008 at 8:18 AM
Happy 50th birthday and many more.
From Bart Meijer
Posted on October 7, 2008 at 8:24 AM
Thank you.
From Tess Z
Posted on October 7, 2008 at 12:54 PM
Dottie, great blog. On the cusp of that monumental birthday, it seems natural to reflect back on what has been...and to look forward to what we want the future to be.

Happy 50th Birthday!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 7, 2008 at 6:56 PM
Happy birthday! I think your malaise is not unusual at all. We love music, but all the things surrounding it can get irksome at times!
From Dottie Case
Posted on October 7, 2008 at 7:39 PM
Thanks all for the birthday wishes. I shall gather them together and hold on to them until the day...still have 2 1/2 weeks of 40's.... don't want to use them up too soon!
From Jerald Archer
Posted on October 8, 2008 at 4:53 AM
Happy Birthday!

"So, at 50 (almost) I need to stop and wrap my arms around what is. May I linger on it a moment and (like Emily's quote said) grab the wonder out of the ordinary."

This statement is great and it hits home with me. I used to be very busy myself, but certain circumstances have forced me to slow down. It seems like the time has flown by, but I have a fair amount of humble personal accomplishments, and many failures, to be sure, that I can recall, but can honestly say that I have no regrets. It seems that in the midst of our busy lives,often we forget the true worth of what we may be doing. It is great blessing to be able to make a reasonable living by our art and talents. As a teacher, there is always new things to learn and convey to the student. It never really ends, even in retirement. Not many can say this. Your work is admirable in helping children in the attainment of musical knowledge where it seemingly is becoming less and less accessible. I enjoyed reading your post and other posts that you have available. You are a fine writer that inspires. You should consider writing a book of your experiences for others to learn from. God bless you in all you do and don't become discouraged. Remember to look forward to many more sucessful endevours and keep on helping others, as God always smiles upon the charitable and those who give without reserve.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on October 8, 2008 at 7:16 AM
Happy B-Day and wonderful blog! I've personally been lovin' my 30's and hate to see them nearing their end. It has been a good decade.

I hope that your 50's brings you a decade of blissful insight and many more magical moments with the music.

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