It's a long story
May 6, 2010 at 4:40 PM
Well, I’ve been gone for a very long time. Over five years, actually. I’ve popped in here and there, but I’ve been, for the most part, silent.
So what happened, you ask?
That’s my cue to give a long sigh and a wry smile and say, it’s a long story.
Finding, and despite extremely long odds, attaining the violin I’ll be spending the rest of my life with.
Attending the Green Lake Festival of Music Chamber Music Workshop (affectionately abbreviated as the GLFOMCMW) in Green Lake, Wisconsin, in the summer of 2006. That summer, the members of the Amelia Piano Trio became my heroes. Superman is now superfluous.
Sitting in the co-concertmaster’s chair…………for one rehearsal, once, when she was sick. But still. Remember, I am a girl who three years earlier had come into the room and sat in the back of the second violins and couldn’t shift to third position. It was a full-circle moment.
The advent of Youtube, and online videos of violinists. This is a biggie. I’m feeling the entire culture of self-teaching evolve around me, in no small part to the easy access we have to such extraordinary videos. I'd be interested in others' thoughts on this subject.
Having the good fortune to take a lesson with a very famous violinist, who studied with another very, very, very famous violinist. I learned a lot of things about myself and my playing from this person. The best part of it was that someone actually took the time to look me in the eye, my feelings be damned, and say, you care about this too much. It sounds horrible, but that was just what I needed to hear. The frustration of constantly falling short of one’s own expectations will invariably result in slower progress, along with unnecessary anger and tension. It took a long time for that message to mean something to me, but now I’m so thankful for it.
Discovering that my wrist injury (see my previous posts from 2005 and earlier) was actually not a wrist injury at all. It was the result of tension traveling down my neck from clamping my chin down on the instrument. It took seeing a video of Oistrakh to finally hammer home to me what was wrong - to really, truly understand what relaxation and efficiency look like. It took a while, but I no longer clench the instrument, and I no longer have any wrist problems, no matter how long I play.
Seeing a variety of amazing concerts by some of the greatest musicians of our time.
Totally crashing and burning at an audition. It was the worst audition imaginable. Its only redeeming asset is that I will never ever have another audition as bad as it. I honestly think that it would have gone better if I would have taken a cigarette lighter and burned the instrument in front of the jury. It was that bad.
Having to drop out of my youth symphony due to illness a few weeks before the final performance. This was a horribly bitter disappointment that - embarrassingly - I find I’m still getting over, three years later.
Poor health. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia over eleven years ago, when I was nine, but in 2006 and 2007, something else crept up on me while I wasn’t looking. I got to the point a few years ago where I began to have panic attacks in the mid-afternoon because I was worrying if I’d be able to hold up a toothbrush that night. I told my doctors this, and they told me that I needed to exercise - basically, that I was being a lazy eighteen-year-old hypochondriac. Well, thank God for the Internet. My gut was that I had hypothyroidism. So I read about it, and eventually found out about adrenal fatigue. It turns out, I am the poster child for adrenal fatigue. I had every single symptom. A few years later - a consultation with a holistic MD; supplements; healthier eating; better mind-body connection - I have greatly improved my quality of life. But, two years after I began to recover, I still feel as if I’m picking up the pieces from that “dark night of the soul.” I didn’t even realize how dark it was until I got out of it. I was eighteen years old and I was crying myself to sleep at night because I was convinced I was dying. It takes a person a long time to heal from that. There are still bad days, or bad weeks. I get impatient - I’m a perfectionist, and it’s in my nature to be impatient. But broadly speaking, there has been a great deal of improvement. I am able to hold up not just a toothbrush, but a violin. This is one of the great victories of my life so far. Perhaps in another blog I will muse out loud about what poor health and the physical healing process has taught me, and how that applies to the study of music. The subject appeals to me.
Not having the money for a teacher. I’m not going to detail the circumstances but I can say it’s been very difficult. I am terrified that I’m ingraining bad habits, but now that I’m feeling better, I can’t fathom the idea of not playing. I’ve missed it too much. In the future I intend to put my playing on public display here to get bits and pieces of feedback. A little start-up site called Youtube has made that easier in the last five years. I’m past the point where I care what other people think. I’m to the place where I value improving more than I value what other people think of my playing, and I celebrate that.
So, to sum, it has been a tough journey, and the violin has often taken a metaphorical back seat, while I was up in the metaphorical front seat, parked in a cul-de-sac, turning a map over and upside down. But, to my surprise and gratitude, the tough times have taught me more than the good times. I know what a horrid old worn-out cliché that is, but it became a cliché for a reason. I’m excited to turn forward with my newfound knowledge. I’m no longer seeking to become a full-time professional violinist with a master’s in performance, as I once dreamed, but I am hoping to become a very good violinist who can eventually be a leader in community orchestras and who can someday teach her students how to play in a relaxed, efficient, beautiful manner.
Zooming in from the profound to the general, I just got my bow rehaired and new strings put on. It has been four years since I’ve had either. I’m trying a tailpiece with fine-tuners because the fibromyalgia and the accompanying weakness in my fingers oftentimes makes it difficult to turn the pegs. So my fiddle’s in the shop and I don’t pick her up until tomorrow. Perhaps later next week I will be able to take some videos of myself on Youtube. I will be brave and post the links here; being teacher-less I need all of the feedback I can get. This July I’m starting up with a local intermediate orchestra which I am sure will be rewarding. I also hit a bit of a mother lode when it comes to concerts this summer: way-back seats to see the Miro Quartet in Winona, Minnesota, on July 8 - first-row balcony seats to see Midori in-recital in Winona, July 13 - way-back seats again to see the Minnesota Orchestra in Winona, July 18 - (there will obviously be a few day-trips to Winona, and a couple of nights spent in a Walmart parking lot) - and then, the concert I’m looking forward to the most, tickets to see James Ehnes in the first Bartok concerto and the Chausson Poeme in Door County, Wisconsin, on August 21st. I’m also hoping - no guarantees - but I’m hoping to give a violin recital this September, consisting of the Dvorak Sonatina, the Beriot Scene de Ballet, the Praeludium and Allegro, and a violin arrangement of Kol Nidrei, and maybe, time permitting, a couple of shorter filler pieces. (Before you complain about stylistic uniformity, the concert would be at a church built in 1881 as a fundraiser from a historic house museum from the 1850s, so I thought a Victorian theme would be the only way to go!) In any case, this summer will be a much more musical one than summers past, and I thought I would start up my blog again to help document it.
These thoughts are incoherent but I will submit them anyway. I don’t know how often I will be posting here in the future but I do hope it will be more often than every five years. It is good to be back.
From Terry Hsu
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 8:04 PM
This may come as an out of the blue type comment but check out the book called "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. It adopts the principles of Weston Price (a dentist who went about researching healthy people all over the world and what they ate) into a cookbook.
My son was identified at 3 months old as having allergies to yeast and dairy. It's taken awhile to figure it out. Only through largely ignoring the advice of traditional doctors and adopting the advice of naturopaths and nontraditional medicine have we been able to address his skin and other behavioral problems.
Diet can be a big component to fibromyalgia and you might want to check out the possible yeast-related components.
That's my 2 cents.
Glad to hear that you're back to playing the violin. :)
From Emily Liz
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 8:46 PM
Thank you for your kind words. It's not out of the blue at all. I'll be sure to check that book out. I'm always looking for alternative treatment ideas. I'm glad to hear that they've helped your son's allergies as much as they have my adrenal fatigue. Being healthy is a huge part of playing music at the highest possible level! :)
Welcome back! Look forward to seeing how your plans develop!
Welcome back! I second Terry's suggestion to look into your diet.
I don't know much about fibromyalgia or adrenal fatigue, but I recalled reading references to them here and there recently. Here are some links from Whole Health Source and a cursory google search:
Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease: More common than you think
Gluten Sensitivity: Celiac Disease is the Tip of the Iceburg
Connection between Celiac Disease and Addison's Disease
Coeliac disease and autoimmune Addison's disease: a clinical pitfall which concludes, "[w]e recommend that coeliac serology (anti-endomysial and tissue transglutaminase antibody) testing be incorporated routinely into the autoimmune screen for other conditions in patients with Addison's disease."
Vitamin D receptor genotype is associated with Addison's disease
Celiac and Fat Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin D, It's Not Just Another Vitamin
Fibromyalgia and Insulin Resistance
Eicosanoids, Fatty Liver and Insulin
Leptin Resistance and Sugar
Whole Health Source is an excellent blog by Stephan Guyenet, a neurobiologist, who combs through and interprets information from Weston Price, Gary Taubes, Paleolithic Diet (e.g. Loren Cordain) and his own studies on published research both new and old.
There are several versions of the Paleolithic diet but they're all rooted in the notion that humans have adapted to a hunter-gatherer diet and lifestyle evolved over millions of years and in particular for the past 200 thousand years. With the introduction of agriculture 10 thousand years ago came changes in the archaeological record which exhibited "...in many cases a general decline in health and stature and the appearance of new nutritional disorders. (Cohen MN, Armelagos GJ. 1984, Paleopathology and the Origins of Agriculture London: Academic Press.)
Enter Weston Price, a dentist and nutritionist who noticed a sudden increase in dental disease in his patients. He subsequently carried out a series of ethnological studies on nutrition which culminated in the publication of, "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" in 1939. He concluded that the diseases of civilization: tooth decay, malformation of dental arches and malocclusion, headaches, general muscle fatigue, allergies, heart disease, asthma, tuberculosis and cancer and other degenerative diseases were absent in cultures eating traditional diets. But with the introduction of Western foods: refined sugars, flour and vegetable oil, and canned foods, they exhibited all of the diseases of civilization within one generation. Price has his detractors, namely Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch who claims Price overstated his findings and came to simplistic conclusions, but take a look at Stephan's arguments, which are I think a tad more rigorous than Barrett's.
There has been increasing awareness that the evidence for the status quo is weak. The accepted wisdom of the medical establishment and federal guidelines regarding diet and health have been based on misleading conclusions drawn from inconclusive research, and in particular on the work of Ancel Keys, who many have discredited as manipulating, even falsifying, his research. He is singularly responsible for relating dietary fat with cardiovascular disease and for demonizing animal fats in particular, which led to the low-fat craze (and subsequently higher consumption of omega-6 rich vegetable oils) and high-carb (high wheat) diets that inform our notions of a healthy diet to this day. He is also known for introducing the Mediterranean diet, which we mostly associate with the consumption of olive oil. As it turns out many regions use butter and lard for cooking and only add olive oil to salads and cooked vegetables.
Many who question these premises are gathering evidence which suggests deficiencies in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, K2 MK4 and a high omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio, high sugar consumption (especially fructose/high fructose corn syrup), and gluten grains are responsible for the diseases of civilization.
What I like about Stephan's blog is that he bases his conclusions on evidence and is not committed to some ideology. Here's another blog that I've read which gives a good summary of the Paleodiet. While similar to Stephan's conclusions, Stephan allows for a wider diet that includes more starchy root vegetables, safely prepared grains and legumes, and milk products (for those without intolerance to lactose or casein) and especially pastured milk fats for their vitamin K2 MK4 content.
Anyway, this is getting too long, but it might be worth exploring. If you do try it out I'd be curious to know if there are any benefits for you. I look forward to your youtube posts.
From Emily Liz
Posted on May 8, 2010 at 3:44 PM
Wow, what a lot of great information. Thanks for sharing. I've learned a little bit about health and diet as I've begun to recover, but there are always more ideas to absorb. Thanks once again.
@ Emily Liz--
Great having you back! Thanks for having the courage to post all that you have! I had to take a 23 years hiatus and have been back in the saddle again for 2! it is so wonderful to relish the joy the violin brings us and to play for just that reason. Playing the violin is in itself a lifestyle! It is an ends and a purpose all in it's self! The violin & bow is to some human beings as wings are too birds, scales and gills for fish!
ps: You'll make one heck of a good teacher IMHO!
@ Jeewon & Terry-- Thanks for your input and links!
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