The Well Aging Fiddler: Let's do it, and let's do it today.

May 19, 2021, 1:27 PM · From where I’m standing, time is everything. We’ve lost a lot of people during this unprecedented time in our lives. Since I retired a few years ago, time has gone from a luxury ("The sixties are the youth of old age") to an increasingly mystical epoch in my life.

If I’ve learned anything from this kerfuffle of messing with nature, it is never make assumptions and take the moment for granted, don’t get all bent out of shape regarding little things, and let people be themselves. I’ve had it with this dualistic, early-adolescent culture of right/wrong, my-way-or-the-highway thinking. It’s forgivable in 13-year-old kids who have yet to develop the mental capacity to see the grey areas in life, but flat out silly in adults.

Lighten up, because this entire journey is short and sacred. Taking it for granted, and taking ourselves as some sort of authority on life, is a waste of time and energy. We’ve lost a lot of people since early in 2020, and we’re going to lose even more before this pandemic is over. At my age, 72, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that this entire experience is finite. I’m lucky to still have my best friends around to enjoy the ride, but who knows how long the ride will last?

We lost a good friend two months ago to cancer from the effects of Agent Orange from the time he was a soldier in Viet Nam, and yesterday we lost a friend to an unsuccessful operation to remove a brain tumor.

It’s sad, but facts are facts, and just because the world is grappling with Covid-19 doesn’t mean other things aren’t happening. Like it or not, the ranks are getting thinner the older I get.

Frankly, that’s just the way it is, and the sooner all of us learn to appreciate what we have, the better.

This pandemic has taught me a lot.

Once the pandemic shut everything down, life changed. I had 55 online lessons. Like you and everyone else, I spent months in my home. I wore masks in public. I frequently forgot to get masks and had to go back home to get one. I saw my family on Skype, or Zoom, or FaceTime. I watched too much television. I ate too much popcorn. I worried about our country. I saw how people chose to respond to this crisis. I worried. Then one day, I stopped worrying. Life got a whole lot lighter. I just started to live my life as well as I could under the circumstances.

I stopped wondering about the future, and started to accept the present. I appreciated a good cup of coffee. I enjoyed exercising with online programs. I stepped back and decided to just live and enjoy life within whatever parameters I was given at the moment. I realized the future was a dream, and I hoped it would come true, but I had too much living within the present moment to experience without waiting for things to improve.

I got my shots. I exercised. I ate well. I practiced my violin. I just went with it.

Then last week, the electronics were turned off, and after 14 months of online lessons, I attended my first face-to-face lesson with my teacher, Mirabai Peart. It felt like the start of a brand new day.

Yesterday, I had my second post-pandemic-in-the-same-room lesson. Just being in the same room, playing and hearing our violins, was wonderfully reassuring that there is hope in this world.

This past Sunday, we had an in-person, violin/fiddle jam for two hours. Everyone had two shots, we stood apart, no masks, and had a great time.

backyard jam

Plus, last Saturday I hit the four-year mark in playing a violin. As I approach my 72nd birthday in two weeks, I’m proud to say when it comes to playing a violin, I can hold my own with any halfway decent 8- or 9-year-old kid.

The ice is cracking and the river of music is beginning to flow again. (It’s early in the morning - I have yet to drink my first cup of coffee – that’s the best metaphor I can think of right now.) I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to explode with playing music all summer long.

I know most of you who read this website, lean toward the classical side of the musical paradigm, and that’s great. For me, it’s all about dipping into everything I can find. I’ll play classical music, but I also love Bluegrass jams, Old Time Fiddle jams, Scandinavian music, Russian and Eastern European songs, the Blues, and delightful cheesy tunes. If I like it, it’s good enough for me.

Let’s work on getting out there. Orchestras, chamber ensembles, solo recitals, informal jams, open mic shows, campfire songs, church choirs, singing in the car as loud as you can with the radio, it’s all wonderful.

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May 19, 2021 at 07:36 PM · It lifted my spirits to read your post, Michael. I'm glad you are making meaning with your time, and it was a good reminder for me to hear.

May 19, 2021 at 09:42 PM · michael at only 55 i already get what youre saying and appreciate your helping me formulate the thoughts. no shift key for me today because im on my back from hernia surgery this morning, holding up laptop with one hand and index finger typing with the other. still an athlete and determined to someday pass as a decent amateur musician. but how do i tell the 30-something kids i work with on the roof that the body begins to change eventually? hell i dont even know how to tell myself.

May 19, 2021 at 11:34 PM · Awesome blog post. Definitely nice to be getting back to normal!

May 20, 2021 at 02:51 AM · Will, I pray you heal quickly. No, the young people won't listen. Did I when I was that age? Of course not, we're immortal until we have our first brush with death, either ours or somebody else's. I've had two melanomas in the last year and am now missing an ear lobe (it looks like a squirrel ear). I'm appreciative of time and the little things. The little triumphs like playing an open E without bouncing or scratching are sometimes the greatest.

And yes, Michael, I will have two cookies, please.

May 20, 2021 at 08:30 PM · Thank you for this really inspiring read! I just wrote “don’t take it/life for granted” on the piece I’m working on, so it will perhaps let me triumph over the smallest of violin victories. I will certainly try to not worry too much, and treasure every moment in my life.

May 21, 2021 at 05:18 AM · Honest and heart rendering as always. And spot on! The minutes of panic and fear ran into hours, days and months. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for sure..the anger wasted on others is all gone now and I too live for the present. Making music, studying music and just being able to get back to my lessons has given me hope. I wish this to be true for all of us.

May 21, 2021 at 12:06 PM · Michael:

Bravo. As someone approaching 80, I am reminded of what someone once said, "Getting old ain't for sissies." As a psychologist and the co-author of 2 books on academic underachievement, I must tell you that one of them has an extensive theory (the Developmental Theory) of the stages of human development in terms of personality structure ("The Psychology of Underachievement," by Drs. Harvey P. Mandel and Sander I. Marcus, 1988, Wiley & Sons, currently out of print though, so buying a copy somewhere won't put a dime in my pocket).

One of my long-term colleagues (also elderly) and I have posited that at our age, one of the important elements of personality is identifying and achieving a legacy - what kind of impact do we want to leave when it comes our turn? Your discussion thread here is a great example.

Good job.

May 22, 2021 at 05:18 PM · Thank you for this heartwarming post. I’ve lost also relatives, two of the guys I love the most, my grandpa and my nephew, 94 and 20 years, past last fall. That corrosive pain and all poor people’s pain hit by this virus is something really hard to deal with. My point is you are right, now is the moment of been, that’s all we got . Sorry, when emotional I’m not a good writer. Thank you again. Good bless you all.

May 23, 2021 at 03:00 PM · I’m impressed with your perseverance! It gives me hope for playing as I get older.

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