It is snowing like there is no tomorrow here in North Wales. I live in a small village and I have to travel to the nearest town in order to get a bus to another town to get to school. But, we found this morning that we are stuck in the village!
We attempted to get out of the village but the snow is coming down too fast and the roads are not gritted. When we turned around, the tracks from our car had been covered up.
So, I must say, this is a great excuse for me to do some extra violin practice! I literally DIE in school when I am sitting in history or French or any of my lessons and get a sudden urge to play the violin.
I think it is great that I get a free day to do something constructive. I may go out and play in the snow too later! But for now, I'm going to keep warm and play some violin. A great excuse to practice!
A fire rages within me. That fire is my love, passion, hatred, tears, laughter, pain, joy and happiness for music. Over the years this fire has grown bigger and bigger inside me and right at this moment, it feels as though it is at the point where it will consume me and take over my life. It is daunting, yet I am looking forward to the exciting journey into the musical world!
It is strange how much music can 'mess with your head'. It can switch on almost any emotion in a matter of moments - even those you think you've made practically impossible to un-dig. It can cause rage and anger, or joy and happiness. It can boast pride or it can show bitterness. It can ooze with triumph or it can dwindle away weakly. Music has endless possibilities and it is something that people will never stop learning about. Music is something that can be manipulated into any situation too. A piece of music will always go with a particular scene in a film, or even a chapter in our hectic lives. Even silence is music. We must not forget the silence.
I can't wait to explore more about this strange wilderness. And for the 8 years I have been, I have learnt so much, but when I look at it, I'm only at the edge of the forest. I will never ever stop learning about it. And the stuff I do learn, I will share and pass on to everyone around me. They will learn more and together we will weave our way in and out of the musical world. And I think that is wonderful!
You might be thinking the title of this blog post is a well known phrase, and even a song, but it runs much deeper than that. You see, throughout the years, out of the many people I have met who are dedicated to music, the most inspiring and true people are those who have battled against all odds. This is the first blog of a few about the very first person who inspired me to start the violin. More 'Against All Odds' blogs will be to follow, written about other people who have been there for me.
My first violin teacher, Mrs Foad, was loving, caring and nurturing... amongst many other precious qualities. But, she was ill. She was ill from day one when she first started teaching me. I'm not sure quite what was wrong with her as I was too young to understand, but I do know she had had many operations on her arms and probably her legs. Her back was weak and she was quite frail for her age from what I remember. Despite numerous odds being stacked against her, she pulled herself together and carried on doing what she loved - music.
Mrs Foad was a very special person to everyone around her. At first, she started teaching me at school, but I started private lessons soon after that with her. Being at her house - with her many cats - also got my brother interested in the violin and before long, she was also teaching him too! I remember she had a big pedal harp in one of her rooms on which I used to play on whilst she was teaching Jonathan, and vice versa.
She was also into art and a random vivid memory which remains in my mind to this day is that she had a painting of a cabbage above the stairway as you walked down! She also had about 9 cats which used to sit in our cases during our lessons and purr and sleep.
Despite her illnesses, Mrs Foad had a great impact on my life. Without her, I would have never picked a violin up. I wonder what other paths I could have taken? I dread to think what it would be like without the violin in my life!
Sadly, Mrs Foad passed away in early 2005. She had been taken into hospital after a major problem with her back, so I was told. Nevertheless, she arranged the date of my first grade exam on the violin from hospital. I didn't have lessons for over 3 months before that exam, but I still passed with a very high merit. It was something, and still remains something for both Mrs Foad and me to be very proud of. I sent a letter to her in hospital soon after I received my results, but I don't think she was well enough to read it herself. I am sure she received the message some way. Even to this day, every time I pick up my violin, I think about her. I would like to thank Mrs Foad for everything she did for me in the first stages of violin playing. She remains in my heart every day.
I was out ice-skating yesterday with 3 of my good friends. Whilst I was there, several accomplished ice-skaters were whizzing around, showing off their tricks, whilst I clung to the side of the rink struggling just to try and steady myself! "These people make it look so easy!" I said to my friend, starting to feel slightly disheartened at my inability to skate. My friend looked at me and simply replied with "You make the violin look easy."
This simple statement started to make me think. As I looked around at the many people at the rink, I wondered how many were musicians. I wondered how many of these strangers had a particular skill or hobby they work on every day. I realised that everyone has different skills, and everyone feels proud of them.
I don't know about you, but when I walk through a town and look around at everyone walking past, I feel proud that I am a violinist. Most of these people probably won't see me, have never seen me, will not have heard of me, and probably won't hear of me. They will never talk to me or find out what my particular skill is. And I will never talk to them and find out what theirs is either.
Every person has a skill or talent, and a motivation to use that skill or talent. It is what makes society run like clockwork. Without the builders, there would be no shelter. Without the farmers, there would be no grain. Without the artists, there would be no art. And without the musicians there would be no music.
We are musicians, and we go out into society and we are normal people, only with a very special skill. Us as violinists should be proud of ourselves. We should go out and hold our heads up high. We might not get the attention of people we don't know, but in our own quiet way we can work to create music, not just for ourselves, but for everyone else around us.
Tinnitus is quite a common condition, especially in adults. However, it is usually quite mild and doesn't affect the people with it. It is less common in people of my age, however, if children suffer from it, they usually grow out of it during their teens. This seems not to be the case for me and it has become increasingly frustrating over the past year or so.
Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, humming, squeaking, drumming or a range of many sounds in the ear. It can be in one ear, both ears, or the person may not be able to pin-point where they hear the sound. It can be constant or come in just short bursts every so often.
My tinnitus is generally constant. By that, I mean it is there every day in my right ear as a high pitched squeak that never goes away. But that isn't the type that annoys me - I get a sort of low drum beat in my left ear which is triggered by men's voices or low women's voices, lower notes in songs or pieces of music or on instruments, vehicle vibrations, the TV and radio... the list goes on.
As you can imagine, this poses a problem for me when it comes to creating music. Luckily as the violin goes no lower than middle G, it doesn't start my tinnitus off. But if I play in an orchestra where the cellos and other low pitched instruments are all to my left, I cannot concentrate on anything. So, a few months ago, I decided to do something about it!
I approached my GP with my problem who then referred me to the ENT clinic at the local hospital. I've had hearing tests done, and tests for my inner ear (which were about migraines I get) and all came back okay. Everything seems to be fine... on the outside.
I went to a tinnitus therapist last month, who gave me special CD's to listen to to 'train my ear', and she talked to me about the problems that come along with it. I also managed to pin-point when my tinnitus first started - when I was about 8 years old, and that incidentally is the same time I started becoming involved with music. She said it was very common for musicians to have tinnitus because their ear has to be trained to listen to pitches right down to the finest detail, which makes everything so much more sensitised. The good thing is she understands what tinnitus is like because she also has it!
I will be going back to see her around Christmas. Unfortunately the CD's she gave me to listen to have not helped much, but I will be discussing further action next time with her. The trying to deal with tinnitus during my music is frustrating and pushes me to the point of tears almost every day, but it will never ever stop me. And my question today is: Does anyone else suffer from tinnitus too?
The half term is over, Hallowe'en has passed, the autumn is drawing to a close and life goes on, but with one yearly difference - preparation for Christmas!
Every year at this time, schools, choirs, orchestras, bands, performing arts groups and many many other teams of people start to prepare for Christmas concerts, productions and shows. It is probably the busiest yet most rewarding time of the year. New pieces are explored when it comes to concert programmes, with, of course, all of the traditional bits and bobs mixed into the programme to create a wonderful blend of celebratory music!
Already returning to school has proven a busy time for me. My music teacher is already talking about rehearsals for this concert and that concert. And yesterday when I returned a choir I take part in, we pulled out the good old Christmas pieces to sing! It is just one of those wonderful things. Yes, it can be stressful and time consuming, yes it can be expensive to get to all the places you're going and yes, it can be a huge rush, but you have to agree with me here and say that Christmas has to be the best time of the year!
So, what musical things are you all doing for Christmas this year?
More entries: October 2010
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