October 2009

The Excuse

October 12, 2009 10:09

From my blog on LateStarterMusician.com:

A wise violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra taught me for a few short hours during the summer.

I remember walking in and saying, “I’ve only been playing five years, so don’t expect much.”  She gave me a curious look.  “Okay, go ahead and tune,” she said.

I tuned, my hands shaking and my mind possessed with the premonitions of playing horribly–trembling bow, scratchy sound, and wrong notes.  (I am a perfectionist and even when I do play “okay,” it’s never “wonderful” in my eyes.  Perfectionism is a nasty curse.)

I had prepared the Bach Gavotte en Rondeau from the Partita in E Major.  I lifted my bow to the strings and after a few short moments, deep breaths, and more self-battering from the voice in my head, I began to play.

Welp, I made it to the end.

I smiled.  Not out of happiness, but, you know, the kind of smile you give yourself to say, “Oh well, the deed is done.”  My instructor looked at me. She said, “Jasmine, do you know how many snotty kids walk into this room thinking they are the best violinists in the world?  It’s so refreshing to have you walk in here with such a humble state-of-being, and then also play quite decently.  You played that as well as a girl I once taught at Yale, and she’s been playing since she was three.  I think you can stop using that ‘late starter’ thing as an excuse and just play.”

Then I realized that I had in fact been apologizing to all of my instructors since the age of 14 for starting late, as if I were an inconvenience of their time and services.  As if I were a wasted hour in place of a more desirable student.

It’s not fair to have all this passion for music pent up inside of me and feel–because of age (and perfectionism, but that’s a different blog)–that I can never be greater.

However, it’s been me holding myself back for all these years, excusing myself from greatness because I had been dealt a different lot in life.  It’s okay for you to have played that so badly, Jasmine.  You’re a late starter, remember?

But is that an excuse? No, it’s not.  I intend to not treat it as such anymore.  I am tired of being the girl who’s pretty good “especially when she’s only been playing for five years.”  I want to make the necessary sacrifices to be a decent violinist, period.

We often do not realize that sometimes we are our own fate, holding ourselves back from the results we want because of low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.

I am tired of “late starter” being a crutch.  Yes, I am a late starter.  But that has no bearing on how well or how badly I play.  And I’ll continually try to remind myself of that from now on.

This entry is a belated “Thank You” to the Philadelphia Orchestra member who opened my eyes, and has now created a path for me in which I can make or break obstacles without a blindfold over my eyes.

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