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Karen Allendoerfer

The Right to Change My Mind

June 8, 2009 at 9:28 PM

Today, as usual, I got off the subway at Harvard Square and started the sprint to my lesson at the Longy School of Music. I never have any margin for error on this trip; I leave work at noon, pick up something to eat on the way to the Kendall Square T, get on in one of the middle cars so that I can get off right in front of the escalator, eat between stations, throw out the packaging in the conveniently located garbage can, and then, out into the sunlight for another 10-minute walk.

Today, unlike any previous day, there was a violinist right there on the Cambridge Common between the T stop and Longy. Not Joshua Bell, maybe a Longy student. I heard him play 3 or 4 measures, tentatively, an E-major arpeggio, and thought, hmm, that sounds like the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. That piece has been on my mind lately a bit more than usual. Laurie just published a master class with David Kim, and David Kim played the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in a recital when he was a senior in high school, and I, a sophomore, went to that recital. That was the first time I’d ever heard the piece, and I loved it. And, I played the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso myself, a few years later, for the “botched” college audition. A coincidental blogular convergence, and suddenly, one E-major arpeggio and I’m hearing the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso everywhere.

Well, actually, I am. That is, in fact, what the busker is playing. He’s moved on from the E-major arpeggios into the main theme. I have this fleeting insane moment of fantasy in which I put my case down, whip out my violin, and start playing along with him. But geez, I’m late. I make eye contact, smile at him, and keep walking. If he’s still there when I get out I’ll see if I can leave him some money.

The first thing we do at the lesson is to go over the Disney solo again. I have a couple of ideas for improving things. The first comes from the YouTube clip that a fellow first violinist found and sent me. The soloist there starts down-bow, not up-bow. She sounds good on the video, and I have found that using her bowing is helping me get rid of my bow shakes. I feel more confident starting on the down bow, and later on I break up one of the slurs so that I’m not in danger of getting stuck running out of bow at any point. My teacher is very enthusiastic about this change. She apologizes twice that she “didn’t catch” it before, until I remember that she did catch it before, or at least asked about it. And I had told her, very confidently, that I wanted to start up-bow. I had been working backwards from the last measure where there were an obvious crescendo and decrescendo, using the printed bowings, and it worked out to start on an up. I must have been very convincing, because she didn’t object.

I tell her this. I seem to have very definite opinions on certain things,I say by way of explanation.

I sure do. It occurs to me that the decision to play the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for that audition unfolded in a similar fashion all those years ago. I heard the piece once, played by David Kim, and that was it: I was going to play that piece. I talked my teacher into it, and then, I went to Germany and talked another teacher into it. My teacher in Germany also, wisely, had me learn a Brahms sonata “on the side” (a piece that was more suited to my musical needs and abilities and which would probably have been a much better audition choice), but at the time I was convinced, for the audition it was the Rondo Capriccioso or bust.

I wish I had, back then, reserved the right to change my mind. I first heard this piece of advice not about the violin, but about parenting--another topic at least as contentious as whether to use a shoulder rest. The discussion took place in an online parenting group that I am in through my alumni association. A new member, expecting her first child, recently wrote in about her plan to take a year off and then start an internship. She said she was concerned about the decision either way—becoming a stay-at-home parent, or going back to work outside the home. One of the other members wrote that it had helped her to “reserve the right to change my mind. Not just about the work at home decision, but about many things.

Including bowings. My teacher said that it’s better that I came to the decision, and the better bowing, on my own rather than having her just tell me to do it that way. I may have had good reasons for wanting to do what I did in the first place, but I re-evaluated in light of both my own experience (the bow shakes), and advice from others (the YouTube violinist and the orchestra fellow who sent me the clip). The concert is this Friday, and I’m feeling much less nervous.

My teacher and I also spent a bit of time discussing what I am going to learn to play next after the orchestra season is over for the summer. I lamented that it seemed so much easier for me to pick solo music for the viola than for the violin. Viola ideas suggest themselves to me; I have a viola “bucket list” and several pieces that I want to get back to, polish, and perform. But the violin repertoire, for all its vastness and complexity, is harder for me to choose from. We batted a few ideas back and forth and decided that I’m going to look into a Bloch piece called “Rejoice!”It’s in a style like Mendy’s Suite Hebraique, the one she played on the viola for her audition, and that I was thinking about doing. But it is for the violin. It’s not a concerto. It’s technically challenging and I will get more experience climbing around the high parts of the fingerboard. Musically, it’s about something I think I can wrap my head and heart around. It’s something I can play in church.

It was late and the busker was gone when I came out of the lesson. I am not giving up viola, but with my new violin and my position in the orchestra, I want to do more with violin this summer. Get back to it. Get reacquainted. Come home. But I am not sure when, if ever, I will play the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso again. I finally changed my mind.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on June 9, 2009 at 3:53 PM

 >A coincidental blogular convergence.

What a fabulous phrase; I intend to use it whenever I can (contributing, therefore, to its own little blogular convergence).


From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 9, 2009 at 6:34 PM

One of the great things about being an adult student and community orch player is that you can make a lot of your own decisions and can change your mind.  While I miss having the plasticity of mind and increased physical abilities I had in my youth, I am grateful for the compensating factors that come with being an adult musician of my age.


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on June 10, 2009 at 10:52 AM

Very odd HTML! 

This was the first entry I wrote separately in Microsoft Word and then pasted into the site.  The formatting came out so strange with too many spaces between paragraphs that I went back and tried to edit it.  Now it's off the main page altogether.  Oops!


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on June 10, 2009 at 10:55 AM

Thanks Terez and Tom!  I love blogular convergences :)

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