April 2008

The Invisible Influence

April 18, 2008 14:08

I can’t honestly say that I know many of my neighbors by sight, let alone by name. And that is kind of sad considering how close in proximity I live to them. Anyway, little incidents have been occurring lately that made me realize how much of the influence of classical music is felt outside of the concert halls and semi-annual recitals.

Where I live it is no secret that I’m a violinist as I’m seen lugging my violin, music, and all the requisite accessories up and down three flights of stairs and across the parking lot multiple times a day. And, after all that, if anyone had any doubt all they’d have to do is look at the bumper sticker on the rear window of my car proclaiming: Classical Musician – Handel with Care.

But sometime ago, as I was grabbing my mail a man stopped me in my tracks with the question: “Are you the woman upstairs who plays the violin?” A little surprised I said yes and he told me that he liked to sit and listen after he got home from work and had time to relax. As we chatted he mentioned that several nights before I had played something he had really liked. I thanked him and asked him if was a long-time fan of classical and he said no that he never “listened to it.” For a moment I was slightly offended…what on earth did he think I was playing? But after we went our separate ways I realized that he had actually given both me and classical music a compliment. He didn’t associate my music with his preconceived notion of what he thought classical music was – stuffy, elitist and hard to understand. After thinking about the music I had played the night that he mentioned I realized that I had been pressed for time that night and so I spent 20 minutes or so playing one of my favorite pieces – Mozart’s Adagio before rushing off somewhere.

Only a week or so ago, I was deep in the middle of a practice session when a knock sounded at my door. I answered the door a little annoyed that I had been disturbed. A woman was there and told me that she was on her way home but she wanted to let me know that she appreciated hearing me play. She said that she had always wanted to learn to play but never had. Before I could say more than thank you she said good-bye and went home.

These little “blips” in my life are a critical reminder to myself that above everything else, classical music is about sharing and communicating with the listener. When I play, I hear the many facets of the music, technical and musical, but when that neighbor downstairs hears me play they hear something beautiful.

May I never forget that many years ago hearing something beautiful was where I began…where we all began.

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Finally ! I'm On My Way.

April 2, 2008 10:08

I left my lesson last night convinced it was the worst I’d ever had. Rhythm? Intonation? Mozart? Not a clue – I must’ve walked into the wrong place. But later, sometime during a late night re-run of CSI and while indulging in my favorite comfort food – popcorn, my musical perspective started coming back.

It’s been very interesting living in my current musical ‘plane of existence’. One on hand I’m a fairly accomplished symphonic musician and freelance artist, but on the other hand a ‘rank’ beginner. It was just over two months ago that I walked into my first private lesson and was only semi-successful in demonstrating an accurate two octave scale for my teacher. And yes! It was very embarrassing that my initial presentation consisted of a C major scale and selections from the Franck Symphony I was currently working on. That this was what I had to show for 24 years of playing made me cringe.

So late last night (or early this morning) I grabbed my music to figure out if any progress has actually been made…? Was it just two months ago that merely looking at the first page of Flesch caused a knot in my stomach the size of a cantaloupe? There’s no way I can play these Kreutzer etudes that fast! Double-stops? I can’t make more than one finger work at a time.

But one by one, wonderful memories began flooding my mind. Like sailing through my first Kreutzer etude and suddenly getting lost because I realized that “I was doing it – correctly!” Forgetting to watch the music because my eyes were riveted watching my fingers accurately fly around the fingerboard like that. The glow of pleasure when I finally got a “Very Good!” out of my teacher as I muddled my way through my first official double-stops with a fairly decent sound.

Then it hit me – it’s okay that I’m a beginner again. For years, playing my music has been like a house of cards; I had no foundation. For every time I walked out on the stage was akin to jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Deep down, I knew I didn’t know what I was doing no matter how good I sounded. The uncertainty of playing like that was horrible.

But now, with 24 years of experience behind me, I can rediscover my violin in a whole new way. Each skill I learn will bring me closer to the musical world between the lines. I will no longer just be playing notes, but I’ll be able to share myself and my passion for this thing called music with any and all who listen. Finally, I’m on my way…

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