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Laurie Niles

V.com weekend vote: Have you ever 'quit' the violin, only to return again?

April 7, 2012 at 5:12 PM

Have you ever wanted to just quit the violin? Have you ever done it? And what made you come back?

For me, I've never really quit, though I've had periods where my focus has been elsewhere. After I got my degree in music, for example, I went on to get a master's degree in journalism. I still played and took lessons during that time, but it was not with the same intensity as I did as a music major!

And certainly, injuries, motherhood, attempting to pay bills with other work, etc. have meant for periods of less playing. There have been times when I've wanted to chuck the fiddle out the window (so to speak, never literally!) -- like after bad auditions, frustrating performances, or life's difficulties simply piling up too high. Somehow the music always calls me back.

Also, I can tell you that I've taught adults who took long breaks -- 20 and even 30 years! I've found that they are very successful in getting back to the instrument, as long as they put in the consistent practice and keep the faith.

What has your experience been?


From Steve Reizes
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 5:51 PM
I had quit for 20 years, laying it aside when I went to college. Returning meant having to relearn some before going on to advance further.
From Don Sullivan
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 6:19 PM
I'm actually coming back after my second break. I find that I have more passion this time around. Spring time seems to get my passion up for the violin. It's when I first started lessons and seems to summon the hunger more than any time of year.
From Jim Hastings
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 6:34 PM
I never quit and never really wanted to quit -- although, at 21, I did my last orchestral playing and gave up the ambition to go into music professionally.

As a preadolescent kid, I had dreams of becoming a professional symphony player; but by my late teens, when I had some heavy-duty training for this work, I got a more realistic picture of what my life would be like in this business. By 21, I decided it wouldn't be a good fit.

So it was really a process of elimination -- quitting one branch of violin-playing to have more time for what suits my personality better -- unaccompanied and accompanied solos and small chamber. Still, I listen to orchestral music more than any other type, even though I no longer participate in making music that way.

From elise stanley
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 7:07 PM
Quit at age 12-13, took it up again shall we say more than 4 decades later (with a very brief revisit to try to encourage my son not to also quit at age 12.

I'd be interested to see how many are now better than they were. I found the capacity to learn is much higher - the reductoin in youthful learning speed is more than compensated by the passion, determination and 'intellectual maturity' (for want of a better term) this time round.


From Mendy Smith
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 7:14 PM
I also quit around the age of 13-14 and came back to the viola 25 years later. I'm enjoying and appreciating viola as an adult more than when I was young. Maybe it has something to do with having to pay for it out of my own pocket.

But there is not a day that goes by that I don't practice something, even if for only 15 minutes.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 8:13 PM
I quit twice, once at age ~21 when I went to graduate school for a PhD in neuroscience. Then I started playing again about 8 years later after I broke up with a boyfriend I had been living with. I was living on my own for pretty much the first time and I wanted to go back to it. I also got a cat and took up yoga.

I played for about 5 years then until I got married and started a family. I quit again when I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter (now 12). I started again when she was almost 7. I first did it so I could help her with the violin, because she was in a program she didn't like and was struggling with it. More than 5 years later, she's still playing, and so am I.

I'm not sure if I'm better now than I was during either of the other periods. I am more confident about solo playing and less affected by nerves now. I can also play the viola now, which I couldn't then. And, I enjoy practicing more now, and am more focused. It's a little embarrassing to think back about how I used to practice--I did a lot of just playing through things and not a lot of analysis or critical thinking. Nowadays I don't have time to waste on that.

From Steve Wyrick
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 8:21 PM
I voted "no" although I guess there were several times when I effectively quit, since I set the violin aside for long periods while I was concentrating on guitar and other instruments and during those times would only get the violin out occasionally. I finally figured out that I had the choice of being mediocre at a bunch of instruments or halfway-decent at one so have been playing violin exclusively for the last 15 years or so (and making slow but steady progress).
From Caitlin Brown
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 8:40 PM
I started violin the first time when I was 6 years old. I had only been playing for a year, but I was tired of the class. When I was really little, I didn't enjoy having violin class at 6:00am. By first grade, I was through with violin.
Then in seventh grade, my school messed up my schedule, placing me in orchestra instead of woodshop. I started all over again, and haven't stopped since (nearly five years ago).
From Paul Deck
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 9:13 PM
I gave it up at 17 and did not pick it up again until 44 -- so about 25 years off. If there are any teenagers reading this ... listen to me. Do NOT do this. You will regret it very badly. I did keep my hand(s) in the piano by accompanying music majors in college and playing jazz, but I should have kept up with the violin. I thought I was "busy" but the truth is, in those days I didn't know what "busy" meant. If you are organized and use your day planner, you can find the time in college (and in graduate school, but perhaps not medical school) to grab a practice room and play some scales and Kreutzers for an hour. I wish I had.
From Wayne Wilkinson
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 9:57 PM
Quit when I was 18 years old for about 13 years due to chronic tendinitis in my left hand. Only started playing again about five years ago when a friend talked me into joining the local community orchestra and still had pain until about a month ago when it disappeared.
From Adalberto Valle-Rivera
Posted on April 7, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Never really quit it in principle, but was in rediscovery mode for a few years, and at times I betrayed myself by not putting the emphasis I should have on my beautiful violin (thus I voted "yes"). I am back in full-force, working harder than I ever did when I was in music school-I love my violin, and this is my life's path; nothing else shall suffice. :)

(Gotta note that after "coming back", indeed everything got easier, and I am currently at my best ever. When your heart is into it, wonderful things can happen, and I honestly can't wait to practice/make music every day.)

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on April 8, 2012 at 12:16 AM
There were a couple of periods where I didn't play much, but I never consciously quit. The longest I went without playing much at all was for a year and a half after my third kid was born.
From Marsha Weaver
Posted on April 8, 2012 at 2:34 AM
I was given an old, in-need-of-repair violin back in 1992. I had "him" repaired and started taking lessons -- during the winter, when garden center activity is at a low ebb. I was really enjoying it, but when the garden center I was managing started up again in the Spring, my time for the violin went out the window. I wasn't having time for lessons or practice, so I put my violin away, with plans to resume when things quieted down at work. Time slipped away MUCH too quickly, and the next thing I knew it was 2010! I'd thought about my violin many times, but for some reason, the time just didn't seem right to start playing again.

Finally, in January of 2010, I just knew it was time. I got him out, bought a new bow and case for him, and started playing again -- relearning what I'd learned earlier, and taking off from there. After working on my own for a few months, I realized I really needed a teacher, so I began lessons again in June of 2010 -- and haven't looked back! I'm playing a much-more-comfortable 3/4 size violin now, I've joined an orchestra, and I'm having the time of my life. I think I was supposed to take that long "vacation" from violin -- it helped me appreciate even more what I'm doing now.

From Patrick Tinney
Posted on April 8, 2012 at 2:59 AM
I took up the violin in 1990 and fiddled around with it for about a year, along with the mandolin. Then marriage and work combined with being a guitar playing choir director I had to put the violin down along with the flutes and recorders I had played for about a decade.

Just over a year ago I took up the violin when I won a lesson at a silent auction. Being a full time parent I can usually sneak in almost an hour a day of practice, well maybe not weekends. I am better with the fiddle tunes than I was back then, plus I am mainly taking violin lessons. Most days I make sure I play at least scales and etudes.

I am starting to get somewhere with the violin, but I always wish I had more time. As I’m sure most of us do. I’d probably pull the flutes (one key and four key) out again if I could get two hours a day. Wouldn’t it be nice to play two of Telemann’s fantasies in recital; one from the “12 Fantasias for Flute without Bass” and one from the “12 Fantasias for Solo Violin?”

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 8, 2012 at 1:45 PM
I just want to provide a counterpoint to Paul's post if there are any teenagers reading this. I don't regret quitting one bit. The time off was liberating and gave me a whole new attitude when I came back. There's a "rat race" aspect to learning the violin, especially for teens, that in my opinion is the least appealing thing about the whole enterprise. When I quit, I was able to quit the rat race.
From Gene Huang
Posted on April 8, 2012 at 2:18 PM
Between high school graduation and last year (a period of ~24 years), I didn't touch my violin more than once every couple months or so. And when I did it was only to fiddle around for a few minutes, or to help my son, who is taking lessons. I started regular practice again last year (which for me is 30-60 minutes per day), and am enjoying it more now than I ever did before. I think I am playing as well as I did in high school. A big difference is the quality of practice that I now put in, and capacity for learning (as Elise stated) is much higher.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 8, 2012 at 6:11 PM
I've pretty much quit this spring. Haven't practiced or played since March, other than to teach. It's really hard to find a reason when you don't have a teacher, anyone to play with, or any performance venues. And it's too cold to play on the street for money. And this town is too damn small.
From David Christianson
Posted on April 9, 2012 at 1:10 AM
I played from age 9 until 15, when I gave it up for 25 years. I started lessons again at 40. I progressed far more in 3 years as an adult than in 6 years as a kid. One thing that is so different as an adult is that you really have a better sense of your own ability and can gauge the level of commitment you can give.
From Bernice Stochek Friedson
Posted on April 9, 2012 at 1:09 AM
I started playing the violin at age 4 1/2, gave my first recital at age 7. Had as a goal to be a second Erica Morini. Was told I had to practice 5 hours a day (7 or 8 in the summer!). At age 11 I'd had it! Told my father I wanted to quit. He said "OK". I was in shock! For two weeks I enjoyed my freedom. However, after two weeks I couldn't stand it any more, I had been preparing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto for an upcoming performance, and the thought of not playing it was more than I could endure. So back I went to playing, and have not stopped since. That was more decades ago than I care to admit, and I had, and still have, a full professional life of playing, and teaching future generations. (I also married, had children and eventually, grandchildren. But that's another story. There was always time for music.)
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 9, 2012 at 2:06 AM
Hi, I promissed myself to never quit during my science and health care university studies. So far, I haven't but I need a lot of discipline to do so because I see many students who stoped music around me...

I can't practice as much as I used to though that has to be temporary or I'll become crazy! Sometimes, I can skip a week or more if I'm in exam rushes and that "sucks".

Though, I'm lucky to not be a beginner since some basic skills still stay even if I don't practice on a regular and "religious" schedule. As a beginner, I used to lose everything overnight if I didn't practice every day...

I chose to continue lessons instead of beeing part of an orchestra since I don't have time for both activities.

I must say that despite these terrible dissapointment periods and ego destroying moments when you feel that you really progress slower than before due to these challenging studies in the way, I overall am much much better than if I would have quit...

In that sense, I have to agree with Paul. I would have regreted it soooo much if I would have stoped playing and I'm proud of myself for finding ways to play so far. My everyday suffering and sacrifices would be lower if I would quit but my overall hapiness, joy, progress and sense of accomplishment would be so much poorer...

Though I suggest very much to still practice in rush periods to keep the violin skills, I advocate to still respect ones limit and be realistic (it's not better to burn yourself out practicing like mad in rush periods...)and keep a bit of time for social life once in a while with friends. (very important to not become a school or violin rat!)

Of course, there are probably as many possibilities as people...

From Elizabeth Kilpatrick
Posted on April 9, 2012 at 2:58 AM
I only quit for like 7 weeks because of an injury. So it wasn't really "quitting"!
From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on April 9, 2012 at 3:54 AM
I've never really quit since teaching is my profession, but there have definitely been seasons where there just wasn't time, or much motivation, to keep pushing my own playing. I can sympathize with Emily on that one. The difference is that in my community, I'm the small fish in a very big pond-so it's not that there's nothing, it's just that breaking into the larger music scene would require a greater portion of my time and energy than I'm willing to give. And I've come to the point where that is relatively ok with me- that I don't have to devote my entire life to be "worthy", and although I may never get to the higher tier performimg groups, it's ok if my life is counting for other things! The musician's guilt trip :)m i can sympathize with Karen too :) But I've recently been able to get back into lessons which is such an inspiration, and maybe one of these days I'll find a performing niche around here that will be worth working for!
From Nicky Paxton
Posted on April 9, 2012 at 12:14 PM
I started on the violin at 7 and put a lot of work into it between ages 15 and 18. At 17 I started on the viola, having been advised (not by my teacher) to change on the grounds that I would get into a better quartet that way at a time when violists were scarcer than now. I duly tried the viola and then quit both instruments at 18 apart from occasional 'comebacks' on the viola until I was 22. In December 2010, to my surprise, I quite suddenly decided to take up the violin again and have practised almost daily ever since.

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