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Rosita Hopper

The Life of the Adult Amateur Player (2)

May 31, 2012 at 2:04 PM

I appreciate the comments my first blog entry generated and I agree with one of the commentators who observed that a key advantage for the amateur player is the lack of pressure. This is certainly something I've experienced and I attribute it to the modest expectations we generally have for beginning adult amateur players.

In spite of potential criticism for having modest expectations, it can certainly be a blessing when one is attempting something as challenging as playing a bowed string instrument. I have frequently remarked inwardly on the difference between my own attitude to my music studies and the attitude of some child students (and their parents!) While I am inevitably thrilled with each incremental improvement, I observe some child students ever anxious to be promoted to the next piece, the next bigger instrument, the next orchestra level, etc. I may be wrong about this but I suspect competitiveness is something children learn from their parents, and probably the element that contributes least to their musical development or spiritual growth. (Didn't Dr. Suzuki teach that you couldn't have the first without the second?)

As the parent of violin students, what I have learned to want for them is a lifetime of playing, a sense of inner growth and reward from making music. Any accomplishment beyond that is for them to choose to pursue, hopefully without the pressure of needing to meet my expectations. Am I guilty of having at times imposed upon them my long held admiration for professional musicians, and applying inappropriately high expectations to their music studies? Yes, but becoming a player myself has helped me loosen that coil, and focused me much more on my own process rather than theirs.

I share my observations here only in hopes that they might inspire others--especially adult beginners--to play! My knowledge is however incomplete and my opinions potentially mutable. Most of all I am humbled by the opportunity this blog affords for dialogue with members of the community. I hope you will continue to read my blog and share your comments either publicly or privately. In the future I hope to write about practicing, performing, ensemble playing, and attending summer camp. Join me!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on May 31, 2012 at 8:33 PM
Your first blog elicited a large number of thoughtful comments. That is what is about. Keep letting us know what you are up to, and good luck!
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 31, 2012 at 9:34 PM
I love your blogs!
From Karila Rolling
Posted on May 31, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I read your last blog and it really inspired me. I am an adult student and I have been playing violin for 6 years. While I can see amateurs may not have the same expectations placed on them as professionals at the same time being an amateur myself that kind of annoys me a little bit- I read a blog on here the other day where it said you have to have 10,000 playing hours to be as good as some of the top violinists but do we not still put in the same blood- sweat- and tears as a professional?! I want people to take me seriously and have high expectations of me- I recently played at my sister n laws wedding and I prepared for months and I was told people aren't expecting much of me because they know I'm an ametuer so I shouldn't put a lot of pressure on myself - it really annoyed me. I work 40 hours a week - plus come home and practice for 1-2 hours a night and go to a lesson weekly on Saturdays- I work really hard and I think amateurs aren't taken seriously enough. It's even hard to find a teacher that takes you seriously because you didn't start at three years old. I wish there were a lot more opportunities for adult learners then there are now.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 1, 2012 at 1:36 AM
I agree with Karila...

Our efforts worth as much as those of pros...
We would be thrilled to give even more of them if we had more time.

I like to say that we are all violinists at heart (those who throughly love this art, no matter the level of skill...)

Also, since (IMHO) the mind develops faster than physical skills, one can be much more "serious or knowleadgeble in their head than what they show when they play..."

For all these reasons, I am all for the idea that we must expect more "mistakes" from amateurs since they spend less time playing but not think they don't want it and don't fight as badly as pros to get there... They are just as serious as anyone about music. They just have less time to spend on music unfourtunately.

(In fact, we fight as hard since we must work in our non musical day jobs in order to "sponsor" our own music time, lessons, instrument...)

Good point Karilla : )

From Rosita Hopper
Posted on June 1, 2012 at 8:17 AM
I agree at some level with everything you are saying, although I have not myself found anything to be annoyed by. I love playing and communing with other adult amateur players, and if nothing else I get plenty of respect for my zeal! Of course there are many skill levels among us and as soon as I posted that first blog I thought of some very advanced amateur players I know who would disagree heartily with my perspective. Still, I'm just trying to spread the joy, focusing mostly upon what it takes to start studying seriously when you are no longer chronologically young, and how to continue feeling inspired and connected to the pursuit of musicianship even if you are not particularly cute or technically advanced. After all, modest expectations do not have to mean modest standards!
From Marsha Weaver
Posted on June 1, 2012 at 5:05 PM
Rosita, your blogs really hit home with me! I started violin lessons as a 60-yr.-old beginner. Now, one week short of studying for 2 years, I'm still studying privately -- but have also joined a small allings orchestra designed for relative beginners and people who studied in their youth, stopped playing for a variety of reasons, and are just now returning to their instruments. The average age of the members is probably mid- to late 60's. The oldest will be 90 this summer. When I joined them 15 months ago, I spent the first couple of rehearsals in semi-paralysis, barely playing a note. I'm SO glad I stayed with it -- my musicianship is growing, and the sense of belonging to a group of like-minded people is very gratifying.

Please continue writing your blogs. I'll be looking forward to the feeling of "Yeah, she and the people who are commenting are SO inside my head!!" :)

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 1, 2012 at 7:44 PM
I'm sure some people will hate me for posting this, but the issue that amateur violinist often aren’t been taking seriously is not unique to violinists. In almost all fields that require years of formal training (law, medicine, engineering and not to speak of various academic fields), there’s a clear threshold amateurs cannot cross; therefore, like it or not, amateurs will not be treated as same as the pros. If you like to push your limits and tackle things that are not always within your comfort zone, I’m sure you’d be dealing with so-called “insiders/pros” in life quite often.

I don’t mean to sound harsh or critical, but I do see too often that, unlike kids, adults tend to be full of self-doubts and need affirmation from others a bit too much. I don't know if this has anything to do with being amateur or an adult beginner.

If some teachers don’t want to work with me, how about ask myself if I should look inwardly to see if I can make things easier for myself? If I care about music so much, why not just play, as Rosita said? If I want respect and love from others, why not try to earn it by just buckling down and work hard like the pros did when they were little?

What I’m saying is that, while some amateur’s grievance is obvious and understandable, taking it too seriously may just lead to a self-fulfilling prophesy.

From elise stanley
Posted on June 2, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Karila - I agree entirely (and am in exactly the same position - and I also played to a family wedding a couple of months ago).

The problem boils down, I think, to ranking people by their technical level and not by what they have to say. To put it in another way, an older musician playing an easy tune often gives music more pleasing to the ear than the most blistering virtuoso. Why? Because you can relate and because you hear their life in their playing.

Seems to me that we should have our own 'federation' of some sort where we can appreciate each others work. Hmmmm....

From Karila Rolling
Posted on June 2, 2012 at 5:28 PM
Amateur's Unite! Lol
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 2, 2012 at 5:37 PM
I agree with much of you here!

I also think that this respect thing should also be for commitment/passion not only for time spent practicing and skill level.

In my mind, a mom that has kids, a job, is very passionated about music and still takes much of her little free time to play deserves much respect even if she's (let's say) not very advanced.

On the other hand, a 5-10 year old kid that (let's say) would be very lazy, consider the violin just as another of his "things" and be full of talent with musician parents who opens much doors should not deserve more respect and admiration than this amateur beginner mom.

Maybe that seems rude of me? I know everyone will not agree... it's just my personal opinion :)

Of course, I don't think any amateurs expect to be invited to Carnagie Hall and stay in 5 stars hotels! I don't think that what we mean by respect is this...

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 2, 2012 at 5:53 PM
Yeah Amateur's Union : )
From Karila Rolling
Posted on June 2, 2012 at 5:40 PM
I NEVER set any limitations on myself I think it takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there in anything you do in life in general and yes life is harsh and there will be doubters or critics but I think the amateur player has a alot more to prove to be accepted just because we didn't start at three years old and I think that idea should change. At the end of the day we all have a passion for music and I will get out of violin what I put into it- I respect the pro's and all thier hard work and I think amateurs work equally as hard just as anyone in a certain profession or with a talent has too ;)....and no disrespect to the pro's but a lot of them didn't have a choice in playing violin how much of a voice can you have at a young age?! I chose this instrument on my own because I have a passion for music and for playing violin - I don't expect to be a headliner for the philharmonic and that's not what I'm saying here I would just like to be judged by my playing ability and the music I make not by how many years I have under my belt :)
From Karila Rolling
Posted on June 2, 2012 at 6:09 PM
I totally agree with your post Anne-Marie!! Yes- Amateur's Union here we come!!!
From Joyce Lin
Posted on June 4, 2012 at 12:22 AM
If you would like some solidarity, here is where a bunch of us adult beginners/returners hang out.
From Kim Vawter
Posted on June 4, 2012 at 3:19 AM
At first I did not want to submit a response to this blog because I was pretty sure that I would just be taking time away from practice. I was afraid of becoming too caught up in this discussion about professional vs adult beginners. It is not really reasonable to suggest that the adult beginner will automatically fit into the same places and spaces as a professional. I can enjoy and appreciate more the of the process of their progress as well as the beauty of their music. I would never presume to expect to gain the same respect as others who have started on this journey earlier in their life. I have had two wonderful teaches working with me for the past 6 years and I am amazed that I can play anything at all! Having been involved in education for over 30 years myself I know a lot about different learning styles and I can now use myself as a guinea pig to apply different methods to learn specific skills as they relate to music theory and the physically and mental challenges of learning to play this instrument. For me, that is the "fun" of learning to play. I am not aiming to please a crowd or entertain at a wedding or anything else like that. I will enjoy others (and pay for it) as much as I can.
The only thing I can say is something that my first violin teacher told me--something to the effect that few violinist are "born" with great talent, their success is directly related to how well and how long they practice. Yixi, having read your response I wanted to tell you that I agree with you. Your points are well taken. Karlia, I hope that you enjoy your own accomplishments and get to play at more places that welcome what you can do. I am glad that you did bring up the subject of respect. Marsha, at 60! Wonderful--keep going--it does get better--not easier--If you ever care to record yourself you will see an improvement! Thank you all for having the courage to post your thoughts.
From Karila Rolling
Posted on June 4, 2012 at 4:27 PM
Joyce- Awesome Facebook page- I just joined :)

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