November 14, 2011 at 6:21 AM(After much introspection, I located the website with his email address, composed my thoughts, and sent the letter. I hesitated before posting this publicly, but thought it worth sharing, just in case there are any students out there who have ever been turned away from their violins as a result of much-needed chastisement. Likewise, if any teachers out there have been the one responsible for delivering the reality check in a student's musical career, this letter is for you. Lastly, I wish to make public acknowledgent because I feel I owe that to my teacher.)
Dear Professor Ma,
I decided to contact you because, although I only studied the violin with you for one year at the University of Oklahoma (1993-94), the things you said and taught me come to mind and teach me new things even to this day.
I grew up in Tulsa, and began the violin in 6th grade through the public school, taking private lessons only briefly before choosing to major in violin performance. When I came to you, I had little foundation on which you could build, and you told me a lot of harsh truths about my playing. I wasn't emotionally prepared at the time for the reality check I received from you, nor was I able to understand your advice or commit to the hours of practice it would take to get where I wanted to be. Honestly, I didn't believe that it was even possible, which was why I quit my major. (That decision haunts me to this day.)
You told me I would come back years later wanting to learn, but by then it would be too late. I've never forgotten those words. I didn't think I would ever want to pursue the violin again, but nine years later, I matured enough to pick it up and try to learn all that you had instructed me.
I'm 36 now. I live in Alaska. I run a music studio of 32 students, play with the Anchorage Symphony, and gave a public recital last fall featuring Brahm's G Major Sonata, Beethoven's Spring, and Sarasate's Caprice Basque. The violin is my passion and joy again, and though I do regret not sticking with it through college, to this day, I gain from your wisdom. I use your instruction when I practice, and also when I teach. My lessons are full of recountings of, "My old violin professor used to say..." And every time I have to sit down and tell the cold hard facts to one of my students about their goals and practice habits, I think of you. That's why I decided to write. I wanted to thank you for giving me proper instruction and let you know that I appreciate the time I had with you. You knew what you were saying.
I hope you are well, and I'm glad I was able to track you down after all these years.
Emily Steele Grossman
I love your blogs, Em, keep em coming!
Best to you,
It seemed as though he looked into the heated cauldron of your life, and couldn't see the molten gold beneath the dross. It takes time to wrestle with life but you managed to skim off a lot if not all of that dross, and the gold that always was there is now shining and we at v.com benefit from it every time you write. I wish there was some way we could hear you play your violin. That would be great!
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