The amateur's bucket list
There's a new article in the New Yorker that I found particularly touching: LINK
(For those with print copies, it's called "The Virtuoso".)
It tells the tale of an early Facebook employee, Eric Sun, who is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in his early 30s, and sets out to essentially fulfill his amateur-violinist bucket list before he dies.
His list includes playing with an orchestra as the concertmaster; playing a concerto with orchestra; playing the first violin part to the Mendelssohn octet; playing all the Bach unaccompanied sonatas and partitas; learning all the Paganini caprices; and probably a few more things I've forgotten.
It's worth reading; it's a touching story. I think some bits of it seem exaggerated for effect, but still, a nicely-done story from a mainstream magazine. (In particular, I found the "no amateur violinist would be able to play the Fiddler on the Roof opening written for Isaac Stern" claim to be strange; there's no shortage of amateurs in the Bay Area who are perfectly capable of doing so.)
Makes me curious, too: What would your bucket list be?
My glioblastoma bucket list is: Get my affairs in order as cleanly and quickly as possible, and then die in like manner. Extending one's life through Herculean medical treatment in order to accomplish A, B, and C may be fine for some, but it's not for me.
This was Yixi's thread: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=955 .
Yes Andrew, as usual I agree with you.
I agree with Andrew. My take on the work is how to live to the fullest during one's end of life.
I would love to just always make progress and play the pieces Im assigned with control, awareness and a beautiful tone. If i get to Bach S&P's I will be happy...then my next goal would be to play better than Milstein haha ;)
It's so hard to know, isn't it? And depending on the cancer, violin may be the first thing to go. If I had all my mental and physical faculties under control, I'd probably choose to keep going in my current life as long as possible. Maybe spend more time volunteering in the classroom, and visiting friends in far places. As a mother, I don't think a violin bucket list would rank very high on my list of priorities--that kind of practice would take a lot of time that I could be spending playing games and biking with my 10-year-old. But I'd probably try to play weekly chamber music as long as possible, and maybe play one more orchestral concert, especially if it included Brahms, Mahler, or Beethoven.
Do your best. No reason amateurs should NOT play advanced works because "they are not supposed to". A violinist is a violinist, pro or amateur. Let them play whatever they can do justice to, and keep moving forward.
Sorry, didn't mean to start a second thread on the same article! I somehow didn't see Yixi's post before I started this thread. (The threads are taking different directions, though, so it seems to be okay.)
Mine keeps changing as I grow as a musician and learn new things. Being the concertmaster of an orchestra was on mine for a while; then I was concertmaster of the community orchestra I was in for several years. I'm very glad I did it and had the experience. It was exhilarating, I learned a lot, and the confidence I gained was priceless, but there were also more administrative duties than I expected. And it was sometimes more pressure than I wanted or was comfortable with.
My bucket list is fairly typical I think for an amateur: play a 'major' romantic concerto decently (not hacking through it nor assuming a very fast tempo), play Bach's Chaconne and other if his beautiful partitas and sonatas, and play many of the best chamber music out there as 1st violin.
Okay, not assuming imminent demise, mine is pretty typical as well: achieving enough technical proficiency to play all solo Bach, with all the implications this would imply vis-a-vis other repertoire. (Not Paganini, maybe, but facility with most chamber and orchestral parts, mid-range romantic concerti, etc.) But at present I'm doing little to advance that goal.
Lydia, no need apology. I'm glad we can have different discussions about Eric's story. Personally, I don't believe in bucket list chiefly because I'm no longer goal-oriented but I became more of a system-oriented person. I know what will make me thrive so I look for a proper system to put myself in to maximize meaningful existence, during each phase of my life. Right now, it is attending conservatory to brush up my orchestra experience and learning theories. Next year, I hope to get into a violin performance diploma program in a local college. I don't need the diploma, but I think the structure and the rigor of the music learning in this way (and among young aspiring musicians) should bring something very worthwhile in this stage of my life.
Play (at a decent level of musicality) all of the Bach, Telemann, and Reger solo string works on violin and viola; as well as the cello suites on viola, cello, and bass (arranged as necessary.) Be able to sight read all four more fluently in all clefs and registers well enough to read 20th century (a)tonalities- I’ve never had perfect pitch.) Don’t know that Paganini would ever be within reach. Play cleanly in the stratospheric first cello parts in the Boccheirini quintets. Play all four instruments well in good local community orchestras in the same year. Learn baroque violin and read through the Corelli sonatas with period musicians.
I agree that there is plenty of room for two threads connected however loosely by that same article. I will observe that there will be many possible responses to such an article... it was written, after all, for that very purpose. Some see pragmatism where others see poetry. That's okay.
I would probably try to learn all the advanced repertoire & just enjoy playing rather than aiming for perfection. However, if death were that imminent, spending time with family would probably rank higher than violin.
Perform the following WITH orchestra:
My family knows that before I pass I want to play "Rhapsody In Blue" and own a Mercedes SL650. So far so good.
Sorry if this is going too far off topic, but do you think someone can be both an amateur and a careerist? What I mean is, could a conservatory student branch off and play 'fun bucket list repertoire' in their spare time, and not have it impact their formal training?
A conservatory student's repertoire needs and flexibility will probably depend on where they are as a player. Someone prepping for a solo career, for instance, can and should learn "fun" things that will appear on their future recital programs, and that repertoire is likely to be part of their formal training. (My teacher, a soloist, has a staggeringly huge repertoire, for instance -- much like Ms. Matesky's list, minus the orchestral works.)
If I knew my time was coming up, I would be more concerned with destroying the people on my enemies list. Maybe it's time? Tomorrow is not promised after all.
I have already mentioned my "goal pieces" elsewhere on the forum, but here goes again:
You're right, I could've phrased that more clearly. What I meant was can a serious student also have violin as their hobby, in the same way amateurs do (in addition to their formal training).
My violinist bucket list is rather typical. I would like to be able to play in all positions with vibrato, be able to play "Flight of the Bumblebee" and "Pirates of the Carribean" (I know its spelled wrong, sorry) solos decently and play in a chamber orchestra or a small group with my best friends. Very mainstream, sorry.
Gemma, there was an interesting thread relatively recently on why many professionals don't play much, if any, chamber music for fun. That applies to learning repertoire for fun as well, and I suspect it applies to a lot of pre-professional students as well as actual pros.
If I knew my demise was imminent (well, even more imminent than it already is...), I sure as hell wouldn't waste what time I had left practicing the violin.
Isn't there a difference between a bucket list (essentially do-able without over-stretching the imagination or breaking the budget) and fantasy fiddling? Not possessing a magic wand I'd like to spend my dying days playing second violin on a top-flight instrument in a top-flight (and highly tolerant) string quartet.
I agree with Steve, but I'd be playing viola.
My Grandfather told me that he would call me a violinist when he heard me play the HOT CANARY. LOL Vietnam ended that idea for me. But his favorite piece was MELODY IN F which I did play for him while he was in his death bed.
unrelated to violin, but if I would be diagnosed with a terminal disease I would probably quit the violin or at least stop setting any violin goals anymore, instead make a bucket list of people I still would like to see and have a nice chat with before I die, and start checking off that list.
Jean, I agree with that. For me, however, the bucket list is not so much something you start when you know your time is coming to a close as much as it is what you work towards now, assuming that you never know when it might end. For me, don’t wait for retirement if you can work on it now. I’ve known too many people who either didn’t get there or were limited when they did.