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An Encouragement of Doing Things By Halves 中途半端のすすめ

February 11, 2011 at 10:37 AM


An Encouragement of Doing Things by Halves (Chuuto hanpa no susume)
“Both Midori and Ryû were interested in the violin, so I decided to teach them. According to the people around us my teaching was really strict; I guess that is because I am the type that hates doing things by halves.”
Gotô, Setsu. "Tensai" No Sodatekata. [How to bring up a ”genius”]Tokyo: Kôdansha, 2007.
“I never had any plans to make him a musician, but I wanted him to do whatever he did properly.”
Arata Michiko, mother of Arata Yumi, quoted in Saitô, Juri. "Baiorinmama Jônetsu Rapusodii." [Rhapsody over the violin mum’s zeal] Asahi Shinbun Weekly AERA no. 25 April (2005).
I am not sure I understand what these violin mums mean, and I don’t think it’s just my Japanese. Is anything less than becoming a star the same as ‘doing things by halves’ or not doing it properly?
By the standards of Japanese violin mums (not to mention Tiger Mother Amy Chua) my mother was a failure. She had me start learning the violin at the late age of 8 ¾; she rarely supervised my practise; she never even thought of entering me for a competition or an audition with a world-famous teacher. She did drive me to my lessons every week and came to fetch me afterwards, having done the family shopping in the nearest supermarket in the meantime. She also urged me to practice. However, when as a teenager I spent whole afternoons practising, she started to worry; why was I doing it? Surely I wasn’t thinking of becoming a professional? It’s the amateurs who have the fun.
She need not have worried. When my fourth teacher wrote ‘Practise 2 hours every day’ in my notebook, I did, and never increased my time to the previous 3 hours again, even when I changed teachers On leaving school I went on to study languages and history.
So was it all a waste of time, because my mother let me get away with ‘doing things by halves’ and I didn’t beat Anne Sophie Mutter to it? I don’t think so. She did not spend her time making me or my siblings practise our instruments, because she was too busy practising the cello herself, having resumed lessons in her thirties. For years she played in an amateur orchestra, and throughout my high school years she had two regular string quartets (one only disbanded recently). My father took flute lessons in the middle of a busy career, although he was proficient already, and played first flute in the same amateur orchestra. Maybe they were ‘doing things by halves’, but they were obviously enjoying themselves in the process. And so am I. I have never gone for more than a few weeks without playing the violin; if I travel for more than a month or so the violin comes with me. I have played in orchestras and still play chamber music; I have performed in six countries (mostly tucked away safely in a larger group or playing for fellow amateur players).
Not that amateurs normally describe their pursuit as ‘doing things by halves’; in fact, just because we missed out on becoming another Menuhin or Midori, that doesn’t mean we regard either or parents’ or our own efforts (or lack thereof) as wasted. And we are definitely enjoying ourselves – or we wouldn’t be playing. ‘Doing things by halves’ has its own rewards.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on February 11, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Totally agree with you!!!

And what about when life forced you to do "things by halves"?

I mean as an occidental girl who started at 14 in a normal lesson context, I had definitivly no chances to become a good professionnal performer (even with 10 hours a day).   Of course, I could teach one day (which is noble) but I meant as a proeficient performer myself.

 I consider I was forced to not go in the music field.  You can be forced by a gun... but by many other things too such as genetic, age, social context, survival issues etc  (and no these are not always excuses for layziness or lack of will!)  Go tell to someone in Africa it's his fault if he isn't a pro musician... (just an extreme example to express my point)

I consider that I don't do "things by halves" IN MY ACTUAL CONTEXT because so many of my peers (amateur musicians of may age who pursued a non musical carrer at university) have quited due to their time consuming study!  Also because so many perfectionnists like me would just have not accepted to play less than perfect. 

It takes a fair dose of humility and courage to still play when you are not gifted with a wonderful talent (and you realize it...)  I think that is ennough to not be called someone who "does things by halves"... 

A truely wise and "professionnal" acting person or musician would never say to his "lesser" amateur collegues that they did "things in halves"...   

From Margaret Mehl
Posted on February 15, 2011 at 3:18 PM

Happy playing!

No, I certainly would not consider what you and I are doing as 'doing things by halves'! And I don't think it's helpful to think too much about what might have been if we had had the ideal genes, the ideal environment, the best teachers, more understanding parents etc. Just keep playing, enjoy yourself, and maybe you will find some new way of integrating your musical and your professional life! Playing an instrument, especially together with other players, teaches you a lot of things you can apply in other contexts. And that's besides being a valuable activity in its own right.

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