Printer-friendly version
Jasmine Reese

The Excuse

October 12, 2009 at 5:09 PM

From my blog on

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.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 12, 2009 at 5:32 PM

Hi, you are so right... Of course I can relate to this too and in my case, it's an accompagnist who made wonders for these issues...   She was always telling me that the fact that I felt like this was going to become my worst ennemy if I didn't do anything about it, that public really don't care and that you should think of this after you have played NOT before. She learned me how to do these "pretend you are a great violinst" games and how to behave more "professionnally".   I am so greatful for this, so greatful to see that a musician I esteem that much had more confidence in myself that I have for myself!!!   Another eye opener is concerts.  They learned me that when you really try to play well, you don't sound like a late starter for many years...   These kicks in the b_ _  you have when you begin to do concerts as a late starter with kids who play 3 times like you do wonders!!! In fact, many of the "shakes" I had were because I had negative thoughs about my situation before even playing the first note... What a disturber : )  

Now I also don't insist on this or unconsciously "dramatize" this fact. I've been very surprised that in the last events I played in, each time,  they were members of the audience who asked my by pure curiosity the age I started!  Of course, I tell the truth.  When they reply "are you kidding", "really?", "I could never have guessed", " no? are you serious?" it's the biggest "pay cheque" for all the efforts and sacrifices + I can't hide it... the humiliation you feel each day for the first years you play (I know you shouldn't be ashamed but many perfectionnists are!!!)   This battle is never finish (I just have to open youtube to realize it... lol), but, at one point, it is really true that it is bad to focus on the fact that you have started late.  It's not a good thing either to ignore and omit your past...   (for me) the best attitude to have is to be proud to be a late starter because many people quit... or never tried because they were afraid but forget about it when I play (at least try very hard to do so).  Definitivly it is wise to wait until after your performance to tell it if you have to.   Saying it before is a killer, I totally agree!  The courage that one has to have when one is a "late starter" can possibly be converted in something wonderful in the music.  I believe every life experience, every story will finish by showing in one's music (as soon as one has ennough technique to express it)...  ( maybe I'm wrong on this : )


From Bonny Buckley
Posted on October 12, 2009 at 10:07 PM

Great story, Jasmine!  Thank you for having the courage to post it. 

From Lyle Reedy
Posted on October 12, 2009 at 11:35 PM
Jasmine, I really like your attitude. Not that you need an excuse but that you recognize that your playing is not always perfect and keep trying. I started fiddling at age 43 without a left hand. My REAL handicap was lack of musical talent but I naively kept on. I never play anything to my own satisfaction, but get good audience and fellow musicians' reactions anyway. After 24 years I still have trouble aknowledging praise because of my own disappointment. But it is still fun. Years ago a friend told me I played well "considering." I told him I didn't want to play well "considering," I wanted to play well, period. Forgot what my point was, but please ditch the excuse but keep your attitude and you will do well.
From Bev Saunders
Posted on October 13, 2009 at 3:03 AM


Excellent post! Thank you so much for sharing! 

From Christopher Liao
Posted on October 13, 2009 at 5:27 AM

Great read and great approach to musical aspirations! :)

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 13, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Thanks for sharing that wonderful story.  It should be an inspiration to many folks out there.  Attitude can take you a long way in this world.

From Jasmine Reese
Posted on October 13, 2009 at 5:51 PM

Thanks everyone for your wonderful responses!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 14, 2009 at 8:14 AM

I loved reading this, Jasmine!

From E. Smith
Posted on October 14, 2009 at 2:34 PM

 Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing this. 

From Tess Z
Posted on October 14, 2009 at 5:11 PM

Jasmine, with age comes wisdom. 

Your post also shows you are maturing as an adult and it's time to take responsibility and not hide behind an excuse.  Not everyone reaches that point of enlightenment in their life.  They are forever held back by feelings of inadequacy that they have carried around since childhood and hide behind like a  shield.

To succeed at anything in life you have to put in the time and effort to improve and learn.  You never want to stop learning or you stagnate.

Great post.  Now get out there and live life to the excuses and no regrets!

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 15, 2009 at 3:26 AM

So Tess, when we come on, is it like an exuse to not practice our violins for a few minutes lol  You are right about this adult thing. When I was a teen, I was ridiculously shy because I got teased and a little more (nothing drammatic) by a gang of bitches since I was serious at school. When I started the violin, I slowly started the process to become more mature... At first, I was terrible, exusing myself at every false note... everyone was on my back to be less "insecure". I also didn't have the best start in the world so it really didn't help.  How true that you can't always find exuses or be complexed about everything as an adult...   My second teachers at my second school have been very very helpful for me... ( Russians hate people who are not 100% confident and you'll die with them as teachers if you are... : ) I received such speeches... but it was for my good! They say the audience have nothing to do about if your sick, if your too old, too tired etc... They (audience) must know nothing!!!


From Cara Garofalo
Posted on October 17, 2009 at 7:50 PM


I really enjoyed reading this post. I think your story can be inspiring, especially to those who also began their studies at an older age. Best of luck to you.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

The Soraya
The Soraya

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine