So, now I’m 68 years old and in my eighth month of violin lessons. What amazes me most about this musical instrument is how completely unforgiving it is. Each day is like the first day, with the exception that I have an increasing number of previous days where I’ve worked on it, and so each day I know what to expect as I approach my practice routine. Left hand, right hand, left wrist, right wrist, left arm, right arm, fingers, shoulders, posture, the movement of the bow, the intonation with the fingers, interpretation of the music, it goes on and on and on.
If I were a professional violinist, and asked what Plan B would have been if the violin didn’t work out, I’d say juggling. It would work. Because, often while I’m practicing, looking at where the bow is going over the strings, listening to where my fingers land on the fingerboard, glancing at my right hand to make sure my pinky is curved, my thumb is bent, my left hand is relaxed, and so forth, I think of that juggler on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Remember that guy spinning all those plates? Remember how he got them all moving but had to move from one to the next to the next and to the next? Well, at this point in my first year, that’s how I’m feeling.
On those occasional moments – moments that are a little more frequent than they were a couple of months ago – I can get it all together. For a few Zen-like seconds I have everything in place. Only then can I sense where I’m going with all of this work. Of course, I don’t get to that point until I’m well over an hour into my practice session. None of this comes right away.
It’s like the instrument and I have to warm into each other, as if my mind needs to go into something of a trance, as if I need to let go and just let it happen without thinking.
A couple of weeks ago I hit a wall. I wondered where I was going with all of this. For a little over seven and a half months, 24 lessons, scales, arpeggios, finger studies, and 18 separate pieces of music, I’ve faithfully slogged along. The only people to hear me play all of these songs are my teacher, Mirabai Peart, and my wife, Juliana James. Mirabai has been supportive and detailed in her guidance. My wife has been supportive and encouraging. I think my greatest moments have been when Mirabai looks amazed at what I’ve done, and when Juliana has come into the practice room and had a surprised look on her face saying, “Wow! You’re really coming along!”
Even then, however, I’ve wondered about these tunes. What’s the point of all of this?
Then it struck me. I have to give a recital, and not just a tune or two. I have to get up in front of people I know and play just about every one of these songs. I need to get this out of me and into their ears.
So that’s what I’m going to do.
On May 15 I will hit the one-year mark of taking lessons. A that point, I plan to play for as many people as there are who care to listen. I want to play on a Sunday afternoon, in a public house, and let it all go out there.
Why not? What have I got to lose? Absolutely nothing! Look, at that point I will have taken lessons for just one year. Expectations will be low. They won’t be expecting all that much, and to brag a bit, I ain’t all that bad. I’ll have perhaps 20 minutes of material. People can eat and drink before the recital, during the recital, and after. This will be fun.
It’s January. I’ve got around four months to get this together. You’re invited.
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