So, here we are, eight or nine months into this kerfuffle of a pandemic. All of us are at home, or venturing out into the neighborhood looking at mask styles, or trying to communicate emotions without the use of most of our faces. I’m getting to the point where I almost forget what people look like from the cheekbones on down to their necks. A couple of days ago, a woman across the street, in a large hat, sunglasses, and a mask gave me a huge hello and looked excited to see me as she waved. I waved back with equal enthusiasm, although I still haven’t the slightest idea who she was.
Anyway, as an adult violin student, in the midst of my fourth year, I’m finding the violin and my weekly lessons are a refreshing link to sanity. Working on scales, arpeggios, double stops, and my somewhat painful-to-the-ear vibrato, takes me away from our current situation. It’s like meditation with a focus, and after a while it everything that is going on disappears.
Now, if I skip a day of practice, I get a bit grumpy. Juliana, my delightful spouse for almost 25 years who has been patiently listening to my slow progress for three and a half years, has been great in hearing my tunes over and over and over again. During this pandemic she had one episode of pandemic fatigue and frustration with my practice.
She came into the music room, sat down and said, "I don’t mean to discourage you, but is there any way you can play softer?"
I went to my desk, got a mute, and put it on the bridge. Then I played.
"That’s perfect!" She said. "What is that thing?"
I said, "It’s called a mute."
She smiled. "When did you get that?"
I replied, "Oh, it’s always been here. I got it a couple of years ago."
There was a silence in the room.
"Wait a second!" She said, "you’ve had something that could make a violin play softer for two years and never used it?"
Oops. Oh dear. It wasn’t my finest moment.
I miss people. Before the pandemic shut things down, I was taking a chamber music class, and an old-time fiddle class, along with my regular weekly lessons. Both classes were preparing for final concerts/jams when the bottom fell out. That was it.
When I told him I’m from Portland, Oregon, he looked at me for a few moments then said, "Portland, eh? Well, we vote Red around here."
I smiled, "I’m Blue all the way, but I like to see all of us as Americans, and I hope we can all work together for our country."
He nodded, "That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day."
We had a delightful conversation. When Juliana and I went back to the park the next day, he came over to us and we discussed our grandchildren.
I managed to play 21 solo shows in the parks since April. Now that it’s getting colder, and the rains are coming back to Portland, I’ll be lucky if I can play in the park until spring. That was fun, and it really helped me get over being nervous about playing in public, but now I’m eager to play with others again.
Having said that, I should point out that in September, my teacher, Mirabai Peart, started holding bi-weekly masked, social distanced violin jams in parks here in Portland, and they have been fun and a breath of clear air. While those jams keep things rolling, but as with my solo shows, the weather is turning cold and wet, so we don’t know how many more we may be able to enjoy until the rains roll into Oregon. Also, we are all looking forward to the day when we can remove our masks.
I feel like I’m in a space shuttle without a way to come back to earth as I go around and around and around. The beauty is right there outside the window, but I can’t reach it.
So, like Bill Murray in the movie, Groundhog Day, I’ve just accepted the present. Not to be a pessimist, but until I’m offered something that will change this situation without placing myself in danger, I’m going to live for today, celebrate today, and not spend my time filled with regret in the edited illusions of nostalgia.
I’m just going to work go make my immediate life and circumstances as productive as I can.
But while I accept my present, I haven’t given up hope for the future. I’m hoping January 20th comes around with positive changes for America. I’m hoping a safe and effective vaccine can be created in a timely way, and be distributed safely. As far as my part goes to promote those two hopes - I’ve already voted, and I wear a mask.
My most immediate hope – beyond seeing my children and grandchildren in person rather than on FaceTime – is to play music with others. So, I practice. I practice Bluegrass fiddle tunes, and old-time fiddle tunes. I work on classical pieces in hopes of playing some chamber music, and I keep my weekly lessons rolling along as well as possible.
Next Sunday we will have our annual Halloween concert outside in a park here in Portland. We will keep socially distanced, use hand sanitizer and hope for good weather. We will also wear masks for safety and, since it's Halloween, for fun. The little kids will be adorable, the adults will be fine, and the teenagers will knock it out of the park. Even with a pandemic, somethings never change.
Let’s all keep rolling along.Tweet
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.