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Emily Grossman


January 25, 2007 at 8:05 AM

At first, I was disappointed.

I watched last fall as my practice time was gradually whittled away by performance priorities. Before I knew it, I was practicing solely for business purposes; my personal violin time became an obligatory push to escape the deadline crunch. The new job with the symphony terrified me at times. Two hours worth of music came to me by mail, usually a week before the show, full of previously unseen obstacles. Composers of all time periods hurled musical ideas that registered way over my current technical skills. For the likes of Tchaik, I could spend an hour drilling a treacherous run into cleanliness, only to watch it fly by before cognition could lock onto it, as the conductor mercilessly wielded his baton. The composer created it with effortless strokes of ink, the conductor needed only to set the metronomic demand, yet I was expected to make the miracle unfold, there in my tangled fingers.

I was terrified of making a mistake. It was only after the fourth concert that I realised that mistakes were inevitable. But even with the occasional stumble, the music kept going, and the people still applauded at the end. Not once did anyone make mention of my maverick bow stroke or notational fumbles. I suppose it makes sense that one lowly violinist might actually be indistinguishable at times, and in the greater scheme of things, winds cover a multitude of sins. For this, I am grateful.

However, my resentment began to build when I became aware of the fact that once a concert ended, we returned our music and went home with absolutely nothing. All the fruits of my labor stayed behind in the concert hall, and I was left with nothing new to add to my collection of repertoire. I went home empty-handed. Perhaps a couple of passages still reeled in my head, but that was it.

So I was disappointed. At first.

This evening, I pulled out an old movement of Mozart that had daunted me last year. Ah, the arpeggios... I set my metronome and began my work. No more than fifteen minutes elapsed, and suddenly there they were, ready to go. What’s this? I can play it. I can play it! I set my instrument down and stumbled into the hallway in exuberance, shouting over George’s episode of Northern Exposure: “Eureka! I’ve got it!” Had it been a few degrees warmer, I might have run through the town naked.

See, what I failed to take into consideration was the fact that for the first time in so many years, I’d been whipped and spurred over technical obstacles that, of my own accord, would have been left gathering dust on the top shelf. My conservative approach to practicing lay a solid foundation, but without being willing to chance it on more difficult repertoire, I had been floundering in the safety of my own comfort zone. In the same way that a cross-country runner might be forced into a rigorous training regimen without a say in the matter, I was discovering what I was capable of doing with a little coaching, both from orchestra and through private instruction. A little prodding can work miracles.

Teachers, let us consider how we may spur our students on, lovingly digging the sharp pointy rowels into the flanks of those who desire to go further. After all, haven’t we been employed to show them the full extent of their capabilities? Then spur them onward!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on January 25, 2007 at 2:17 PM
Congratulations, Emily. That is downright inspiring.
From Scott 68
Posted on January 25, 2007 at 2:36 PM
the logical sequence of playing violin 1)this looks like fun
2)wow this is alot of work
3)what was once a work is now a job

People dont think that playing violin is so much work when they start when it is actually a full time job just to play half decently. We progress as musicians in millimeters so you dont notice yourself getting better but over time it becomes noticeable.

We always used to say the best way to get better is to join a band (orchestra) because it forces you to play more and at the best of your ability. Performances are unpredictable and all you can do is practice as much as possible and have mock performances days before the concert.

Regaring mistakes, the majority or the audience never notices.

Kudos to you, youre on track to really growing as a violinist, you have an orchestra pushing you to the limits of your abilities and in time you will grow to levels you never imagined.

many blessings to you and your family

From jennifer steinfeldt warren
Posted on January 25, 2007 at 4:26 PM
The next time you play one of those Tchaik's, when the music arrives in the mail, you will fear and tremble....but once you get out your violin and metronome and start to work through it, you will be pleased to discover that you really did take something away with you from the concert.

And then you will curse yourself for not photocopying your part to save the time of figuring out your fingerings all over again :).


From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 25, 2007 at 5:30 PM
Jennifer, my choice of fingerings has changed so many times in the past three years of study! If I had to go back and play it again, I'd probably choose something different. Fickle on fingerings. Don't you get the feeling that somehow it could always be done better?
From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 25, 2007 at 6:08 PM
Well-and entertainingly-put, Emily. Congrats to you, too.
From Jenna Potts
Posted on January 25, 2007 at 11:14 PM
"lovingly digging the sharp pointy rowels into the flanks of those who desire to go further"

Ouch. Just reading that makes me hurt. :-)

From Mellisa Nill
Posted on January 25, 2007 at 11:51 PM
My personal favorite fingerings are the Emily Grossman trademarked "1 finger fingerings" that involve constant shifting.

Great fun! :)

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on January 26, 2007 at 12:44 AM
From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 26, 2007 at 1:11 AM
Mellisa, why use four when you could use just one? Just think, you could do away with fingerings forever.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 26, 2007 at 1:14 AM
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A violinist, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,


From Linda Lerskier
Posted on January 26, 2007 at 2:53 PM
Ride 'em cowgirl!

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