"Mom, can we get these swim goggles? They are the perfect goggles, I've tried this kind before and these are what I want."
"No, not today. They look like nice goggles, but this is an overpriced resort hotel gift shop, not the best place to buy them."
"But we're about to go swimming, I need them now!"
"The answer is no, we are not buying goggles right now."
"You are totally ruining everything for going swimming. We might as well not go. I'm going to have a terrible time."
"We aren't getting the goggles. You will still have a fun time swimming."
"Why can't we get the goggles?"
"Because I said no."
"That isn't a reason. I really need them. Give me five good reasons why you won't buy them for me!"
"I have five good reasons for you."
"They'd better be really good reasons!"
"They are. One: because I said 'no.' Two: because I said 'no.' Three: because I said 'no.' Four: because I said 'no.' And five: because I said 'no.' "
We didn't get the goggles. We walked over to the pool, the kids lugging along discontentedly. When we arrived, we got towels, and also we noticed a big blue basket full of toys for children to use: floaties, sand toys, buckets, watering cans and...goggles.
I sat down at orchestra rehearsal today, and I realized that this is one of the most blessedly easy things I do in life.
It's so straightforward: in front of me sits the chart. I just play it. If I do everything requested on that page, I can leave the rehearsal reasonably satisfied that I've done a good job. And I love applying myself to the task: blocking the rest of life out and counting, watching the conductor, playing the right notes, nailing down every dynamic and nuance, hitting every entrance, and getting every articulation right. It takes concentration, and I'm happy to give it.
Because the rest of my life is not so elegantly and beautifully defined as is my part in a symphony orchestra. Where's that chart telling me how to be a parent? Or the one that aims me the perfect direction in my career or finances? And even the directions I do receive point all over the place; they don't always end up making my life into noble music.
And so I love my time in the orchestra chair.
If you are in Southern California this week, come see me playing a lot of cowboy music in the Pasadena Pops. Okay the actual draw would be Michael Martin Murphey, but hey, I'll be in the second fiddles!
I'd also like to announce something completely unrelated to the above blog and to violin playing: Robert and I have started another website, called SensibleTalk.com. It's a website meant to encourage responsibility in the media and politics. So are you fired up about something that doesn't have to do with the violin? Come on over and visit!
I thought I'd come up with a poll that had as much validity and made as much sense as the recent news stories, spread all over the world via the Internet, that have cast musicians as a bunch of substance abusers. So where do you stand in no-where-land?
Actually, the hysteria lies not in the stories or in the words of our fellow musicians, but in the headlines, like, "Just One More to Calm the Nerves" and "Nigel Kennedy hits out at substance abuse in classical music." Those are written by editors, not by the people who wrote the articles. Blair Tindall's article was simply a first-person observation piece, reasonable enough, touching on myriad points that are worth exploring but distilling most of it with the point: "We, like anyone else, are just people. We're tempted. We say yes or no to drugs. But, because of our discipline, we most often say no: drugs and impairment are not worth risking a lifetime of practice." (And by the way, welcome, Blair.) Kennedy's comments also came from personal observation, basically saying that beta-blockers work on nerves but don't help a bad musician play better; that musicians sometimes drink or have a joint; and that "performing under the influence of alcohol or dope would be cheating the audience."
In other words, a true substance abuser can't perform effectively as classical musician; just as substance abusers tend to fail as bus drivers, tax accountants, parents, etc. etc.
We knew that.
But what of the actual issues of substance abuse, related to musicians?
Every single one of these substances has its own issues. Some are illegal in most places. Some tear families apart. Some are medications doctors prescribe and can be used in a constructive way -- or abused. The same substance that is considered food in one culture may be banned in another. And substances like alcohol and coffee can be acceptable in a person's life but still can have an egregious effect that same person's ability to play music if they are taken before a performance. And then there are prunes.
Does anyone have anything of substance to say?
I decided to do something radical: take a month off from teaching.
I realized that I hadn't taken a break like this since I took time off to have my son, eight years ago. (And having a newborn isn't exactly a break!)
Because learning the violin requires consistency over a very long period of time, I figured that I might as well teach my private student through the summers as well as during the year. Sure, I took off a week here and there, and often my students would take their own vacations. But I've never simply turned off the studio for an entire month.
It was actually one of my students' parents who said,"You can't do that, just take your breaks when someone else takes vacation. You need to take your own time off!"
So after a very busy year, teaching in the public school, teaching Suzuki group, teaching private students, after years of going to teaching-enhancement workshops (Suzuki institutes, etc.) and teaching during summers, I will spend July doing other things like visiting friends, going to the beach, taking my kids places, reading, writing. (Yes, that means you'll probably actually see more of me on V.com!)
I have a feeling it will be the best thing I've done for my teaching in a long time!
Hear more from the world's top violinists in The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1, which includes our exclusive conversations with Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, and David Garrett, and others, as well as a foreword by Hilary Hahn.
Laurie Niles is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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