Standing in My Own Way

June 6, 2016, 11:36 AM · I have, for all intents and purposes, hit an enormous stall in my violin studies. My work and family life have taken over much of the time I used to have available to practice. So much so, that the last two years have netted minimal improvement. I attempted to kick start things in the spring by going to an adult strings camp, but it did not go well for me as I did not fit into any of the groups at which it appears to be aimed. I was much too advanced for the beginner group, and not skilled enough at sight reading at speed for the intermediate group. The intermediate group was made up almost entirely of people who had played most of their lives and had been to the camp numerous times, while some of the beginners could not even read music. As a result, I came away from the experience with less confidence than ever.

Following my unhappy camp experience, I began to pull back from playing. I stopped attending the small adult string ensemble I played with. While I truly love the people, I felt like my playing was a problem and felt uncomfortably singled out when my mistakes held everyone back in my section. My practice time, limited already, was cut back even more. I began to dread lessons.

In an attempt to help me regain some measure of confidence, my teacher strongly suggested we do a duet together for the spring recital. I was hesitant, but in the end agreed that it might help. We backed up quite a bit and put together something from Pleyel Op. 8 which sounded very well in the practice room. However, the recital was a disaster. It was almost as if my subconscious had already decided that I was going to fail. I forgot my music. My teacher had a copy (fortunately!) but it was from a different publisher and didn’t have any of the markings I was accustomed to. I got a few moments to go over part of it with the pianist 10 minutes before the recital, but my teacher couldn’t be there for the warm-up. Needless to say, I went to pieces and screwed up the performance quite badly. As the only adult in the studio who ever takes part in the recital, it was incredibly embarrassing, particularly since most of the children who started two years after me have now far surpassed me. I don’t think I’ll do a recital again. It’s too humiliating.

At the same time I signed up for the spring camp, I also signed up for a fiddle camp in July figuring that I would be rejuvenated and ready to have some fun after the spring camp. Glutton for punishment much? Yup. Well, after my experiences the last couple of months, I am mostly terrified. I have had zero exposure to fiddle music and don’t feel like I will be able to fake it. If it weren’t already paid for, I would skip the camp. Now I have to figure out a way to get through it without wanting to immolate myself and my violin.

Four years ago, I really didn’t know what I was signing up for when I started lessons. I had no goal except to enjoy the experience. Two years ago, I had developed a goal that was tantalizingly within reach with enough effort. Now I have lost my way, with my goal close by, and yet still so far beyond my grasp that I can’t see the path to get there. I don’t want to quit, but I can’t figure out how to move forward.

My son, who shares my lessons, says that I am causing my own problems. He’s probably right. When I mentioned that I don’t feel like I ever make any improvements, he tells me it’s because I don’t hear praise, only corrections, despite there being as much of the former as the latter. I’m not sure how to fix everything that’s broken about my playing and my thought process surrounding it, but I’d sure like to find out. It’s almost as if I’m afraid to improve. And if I’m the only adult starter that has ever felt this way, I’ll eat my hat.

If anyone has seen my missing confidence, please tell it to call home.


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