Written by Sarah Hemm
Published: January 10, 2015 at 5:08 PM [UTC]
I later returned to the violin, but something happens when you grow up and are no longer a cute kid. When you play violin as an amateur adult, people don't gasp in amazement like they do when you're playing Vivaldi at age 10. They just expect you know how to play. When I came back to the violin in my 20s, it was extremely frustrating. I went through the range of emotions – regret, sadness, depression, who cares, anxiety, panic, what's the point, it's too late for me, and so on.
If anybody else is in this boat – I want to tell you what saved me. Finding a great teacher. There were so many years I spent “trying to be as good as I was when I was 14” to no avail. I fought against myself and my instrument. My goal to finish the Suzuki books seemed impossible on my own. I found a great teacher in September 2014, at age 32. I came in brushing up on Book 5, and after working very hard and attending weekly lessons, 3 months later I'm at the end of Book 6.
Don't spend as many years as I did trying to do it on your own. Find a great teacher and you will be back on track, enjoying your violin journey, and all the regret and frustration will fade away. Promise.
What you describe is the fame effect. You wrote about it well. My son chuckled as I read it. So true about the cute factor.
I'd like to add that it ain't just the teacher. What really matters is that you play for the love of it--for the love of the music--for your own internal interest. If a child doesn't have this, she or he won't continue. And the fame thing does cause confusion--especially if that love isn't strong enough.
But how do you culture that love? The problem to me is that too many kids don't actually play with their instruments. They play them, but don't play with them. Repertoire fed to you from an orchestra or a teacher is fine, but it isn't from *you.* Children should never be discouraged from fiddling around.
I came back to the violin at age 26--I've had 3 teachers since then and all of them have been amazing in helping me rediscover my love of music, and to regain and surpass the technique I had when I was 14. The personal satisfaction of learning and performing Bach, Bruch, and Beethoven is much higher now compared to when I was a child, and I look forward to rehearsing and performing with my orchestra more as an adult!
I think if you take co-workers or non-musician friends to a performance, you might find that they are in awe of you --and more importantly, that they had a wonderful evening of music and watching a friend (you) in your element--followed by a recap of the program over a bottle of wine which you probably couldn't do at 12 years old.
Keep at it Sarah...
I don't think there was ever much more than a week when I didn't play. Fast forward to 2-3 years ago. I finally got an instructor just a little older than me and we got along great (the garden produce and fresh Salmon I would occasional bring to lessons did not hurt our relationship). She did wonders for cleaning up my technique with a little Kreutzer and Flesch. My job changed six months ago and I had to move. I'm out of lessons now, but have what my wife calls a monday play date with a guy who just started playing violin (he's very good on other instruments). I help him out and we just have a great time.
Long story short... If you love it, you will keep the violin in your life. You cannot help it.
Maybe an upgraded goal would be a corresponding "book recital" which needn't be restricted to pieces in one book, of course, or even to Suzuki pieces. Pick a selection of pieces -- I love La Folia too, maybe even add a few variations from another source -- and a Handel Sonata and a couple of other pieces, and you've got a nice recital. Flesh it out with something from Book 5 if needed, or add something of comparable level (e.g., book 3 of Barbara Barber). About 40 minutes of music with an intermission would be lovely. Along the way you can warm some of the pieces up in a studio mixed recital or adults-only recital if your studio has those (see Claire Allen's blog post on that!).
In my younger daughter's cello studio, you can say what book you're "in" but you can't say you "finished" a book until you've had the corresponding book recital. That's a tough standard but I think there is wisdom in it. I'm working toward a recital of my own now, and I'm starting off with a couple of performances early this year of my newest piece, which is the first movement of the Haydn G Major Violin Concerto. I learned it when my older daughter was preparing it for her recital last year. I hope I can play it as well as she. (Believe me, I've really lived for the day when I can say that, and now honestly I can.)
Laurie, the Bach A Minor is a true highlight of the whole Suzuki program. I agree that is just a wonderful concerto and a great achievement. I'm still struggling a bit with the third movement but I'll get there.
Back to the original thread, I started at 5, quit at 17, and returned to playing in my 40s. I started lessons with my daughter's teacher after seeing how good he really was and the progress she was making in a short time. Funny story, at my first lesson I brought what I was working on when I quit violin at a teenager -- Mozart 3. After struggling through the first couple of pages with some pointers from my teacher, he finally stopped me and said, "Paul, do you have any Suzuki books?" Far from being insulted, I felt so relieved. I knew I had no business EVER playing Mozart 3 as a kid. True story -- my teacher back then assigned it to me because I could not play the Accolay. I my second lesson with my new teacher he taught me about "ring tones", which I had never been taught in 12 years of childhood instruction, even though the "Solo and Ensemble" judges consistently nicked me for intonation. Everything I learned about agility (practicing passages in rhythms, etc.) I learned back then from my piano teachers. My daughter has made more progress in five years than I made in twelve. She is learning to play the violin properly, and that is much more important to me than how fast she climbs the rungs on the Suzuki ladder. And now, at last, I am learning it properly too, slowly but hopefully surely.
Flash forward six years later, I have taken lessons from four different instructors. I should say I've frustrated four, well intentioned women who were probably more frustrated than I was. I always knew my tone was non-existent and that led me to quit lessons and try to figure out why I sounded so horrible.
So here I am, on my own, practicing double stops, shifting and always listening to tone. I practice much slower, warm up with a drone. I spent a bundle on a new viola too (should say fell in love with it, a Jay Haide 16"). So my time in a room in my garage is what I look forward to every day.
The issues for a music teacher with an adult student:
- need the progression of skills just as a child does
- knows when he/she sounds bad and plays poorly
- just because he's a 'big kid' he isn't mature (musically)
- take much more time to progress
- tell him/her how to practice, no adult supervision available
For the adult student:
- listen and learn, remember you're the student
- stick to the lesson, don't go off on your youth
- practice twice what a child would be expected.
- be humble, your teacher may be younger but has a lifetiem of experience.
Anyway, great topic.
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