December 1, 2010 at 1:41 PM
I work in a Court House, and each day, my violin or viola is X-ray-ed by security before I am allowed past the main foyer of the building. When I began taking violin and viola lessons, I endured comments from the scanners like,"What do you have in the violin case....a Tommy Gun?" Over the years, the guards would comment less and less, just sigh and run my instrument through the machine. The way I see it, given the daily X-rays, my instruments probably glow in the dark as they sit in their cases at night.
Each day, I would arrive at work roughly an hour and a half early so that I could find an empty jury room for a one hour practice session before my shift started. The Court House has an inner corridor that runs behind each Court Room and lock up. This corridor completely circles the building, but since it is the conduit for transporting prisoners to and from the Court Room, the public has no idea the corridor exists. During lunch, I would set out to locate a jury room (maybe a different one if my original room had a jury in it) so I could get another hour of practice in.
I tend to alternate instruments on certain days, particularly since I was taken from the viola section of our local community orchestra and placed in the second violin section. I began to focus a bit more on the violin; starting out with easy Etudes and working my way into the second book of Sitt. I'd like to say at this point, that the Judges of the Court have been particularly patient with me, after all, the jury rooms back right up to their private chambers, and 4 years ago when I started playing violin, I could almost imagine their ears bleeding in their offices as they quietly listened to me screeching away in the next room.
That having been said, it was barely a week ago that I was practicing Etudes and Baroque music (I love Baroque) in an empty jury room during my lunch hour. At the same time, a troubled young man convicted of a heinous crime was being led from one of the Court Rooms down the back corridor...directly past the room I was practicing in. This young man was screaming and fighting the Deputies - five of them in fact - that were attempting to escort him back to his cell. He was facing a lifetime prison term, and was not looking forward to going into custody.
I heard some muffled scuffling as I was practicing, then silence. Several minutes later, a Deputy stuck his head in the room I was using and said,"Don't stop. Whatever you do, don't stop." I turned to him. "What do you mean?"I asked. After all, as a typical adult learner on the violin, I'm not used to hearing someone tell me not to stop playing. But the Deputy was adamant. "Keep playing!"he hissed,"I will come back and explain to you later!"
So, I did. I went through Etude after Etude and most of my Bach, all the while wondering what was going on. The Deputy came back and told me the scuffling I'd heard was the young man being forcibly dragged by five Deputies into the lock up. The fellow was huge, I was told, and very strong. As he came near the door of the room I was using, he stopped suddenly and said,"What is that.......WHAT IS THAT?"
"It's a violin,"one of the Deputies answered,"Now come along...." but the young man would have none of it, and instead resisted to strain to hear what I was playing. One of the older, more seasoned Deputies instantly sized up the situation. "Look here,"he said,"You come quietly, and I will put you in cell block 1 - right near this room. And I'll leave the antiroom door open so you can hear better. OK?"
To everyone's amazement, the young man said,"OK", and went quietly. So they put him in the cell block right down from the room I was using, opened the secondary door so that he could hear the sounds of my violin, and opened up the jury room door I was practicing in. I'm told that they had no further trouble from him - even when the Division of Corrections came to transport him into custody at a maximum security wing.
Talk about taming the Lion......