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Emily Grossman

Acceptance Speech

August 28, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Would you look at that, it's after midnight. The practice room has once again become a time portal, and I've arrived at the end of the day just as soon as it began. Sleep needs some attention, but I'd rather stay up, just in case I might miss out on something. The new day will be over before it begins, it seems, and then suddenly, strange things happen, like school starts, and puppies grow up, and another year slips by.

I've been doing some thinking lately about the road I've traveled since 2004 when I first returned to my pursuit of the violin--can't believe it's been nine years already. In a lot of ways, I'd been in denial that anything has changed at all; after all, the moon is still just as far away as it was the day I was born. But in chasing it, I somehow managed to cover a lot of ground.

There came a point this summer, about six weeks into a serious practice binge consisting of six hours each day of scales, etudes, and other remedial technical drills, that a wise friend here at, Stephen Brivati, told me I was being too diffident, that I should be playing much more difficult repertoire, and that I was more than capable. My technical purgatory had served its purpose, but I was holding myself back with it. Who is this man, who lives in Japan, who's never met me and yet assumes so much? Normally, such advice should be viewed with skepticism, especially given the context. Yet, of all the people in my life, he is probably the only person who I'd have taken seriously. Why? Because he's been my mentor from the first day I picked up my violin and stumbled across this website, and he's as close as I'll ever get to having a real teacher.

So, on a non-particular day in July, I took the advice of a wise man in Japan, and I dug out the Paganini, which had been stored in a file cabinet since I bought the dog-eared old copy at a used bookstore back in '04. Such a work seemed too sacred to even touch, but I was simply following orders, right? #16 was barely recognizable at the speed I took it, but after looking at #20 and #9, I realised that all three were completely manageable. These were what I should be practicing! I was in complete disbelief.

Then, a couple of days later, I went ahead and printed out the first movement of the Tchaikovsky concerto and, as one might indulge in a guilty pleasure when no one is looking, gave it a spin. When I heard my own fingers creating those beloved familiar phrases, I couldn't believe it. All the technique I needed to play this dream concerto was already in my possession, as though it had just been waiting to be let out. When I finished, I broke into tears: I never knew that this would be the day I would wake up and find out I was a real violinist like I'd always wanted to be. The hardest part now is accepting this fact and owning it; my unbelief is the only thing that holds me back.

So, this is my acceptance speech. Ever since that day, I've felt like giving credit to all the people who have transformed me over the years, most of whose faces I will never see, given the span of the earth and the logistics of travel. But thanks to the internet, I've established and maintained some of the best relationships in spite of the distance.

Buri, thanks for shoving me out of the nest to show me I knew how to fly. Thank you, all you who have hung around this website over the years, chatting on the discussion threads and keeping me entertained and informed. Although I may never meet you, you've been every bit as real to me as my friends who sit across from me at the coffee shop (making fun of me: are you still on that computer, Emily?). Thanks, Laurie, for keeping the website up and running, and for creating a safe and fertile environment for cultivating civil (minus shoulder rest debates!) discussion.

Thank you, Itzhak and Pinky, for letting me borrow your bowings from time to time--genius! Thank you, Lisa Marsnik and Dylana Jenson, for overhauling my setup and giving me a solid base understanding. Thank you Todd Ehle, for your thorough instructional videos, for sparking such creative teaching ideas. Thank you, Zuill Bailey, for being an icon, gracing the small communities of Alaska and stoking my conniving cello-kidnapping ways. Thank you, Arnold Steinhardt, for explaining the birds and bees of quartet playing. Thank you Cup Noodle, for keeping my tummy full while I pay for my Dominant strings. Yes, thank you, Cup Noodle.

Then there's the people physically present in my life: I want to thank my parents for broadening the scope of possibility by supporting me every way they can, morally, spiritually, and financially. Thank you George, for allowing me to practice all hours of the day and night and liking it. (At least you say you never mind!) Thank you, Michael Avagliano, for being the best mentor stand partner ever; violists rock! And my pianist, Maria, for being such an unfailing role model and collaborator. And, of course, Kevin, for being my real-life cellist, for believing in me wholeheartedly, even when I didn't believe it myself, and for teaming up with me in my race to the moon. We haven't gotten there just yet, but the journey's been sweet so far.

Thank you, thank you.

Thank you.

From Dottie Case
Posted on August 28, 2013 at 6:38 PM
And Amen.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on August 28, 2013 at 9:30 PM
Great blog. Thanks for sharing the identities numerous people who have helped you to become the wonderful Emily Grossman on and in Soldotna.
From Randy Walton
Posted on August 28, 2013 at 9:32 PM
Wow! What an uplifting blog! So good to hear you being positive after being so hard on yourself, not too long ago. V.commers no doubt have entertained and informed you, but there's no question that you have reciprocated. I, personally, get a lot of enjoyment from your writing. If you ever give up 'violining', you could be a best-seller writer!

Thumbs up to you, Emily!

From Krista Moyer
Posted on August 28, 2013 at 9:49 PM
And thank you for providing our very own version of "Northern Exposure". Seeing the world through your eyes is a gift indeed.
From Dottie Case
Posted on August 28, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Emily... go read your blog of Nov.17, 2004.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on August 29, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Oh my gosh, yeah I remember that blog. Who'd have thought!
From Christian Lesniak
Posted on August 29, 2013 at 2:34 AM
It's easy to underestimate yourself, and not realize that you aren't the same player you were even a month ago. The nice thing about great teachers, that I'm sure is harder to manage once one is on one's own, is that they will know when to push you. Maybe it's good to have a coaching session from time to time, no matter our level, to have someone hear things that we have started taking for granted. That must have been an awesome revelation, Emily!
From elise stanley
Posted on August 29, 2013 at 1:32 PM
Wonderful to read Emily - how fantastic to discover that you had all that ability 'in hand', just not really yet 'in heart'.

Its probably much more common (guilty here) to overrate yourself, to think you are ready to play pieces that you do not really have the technical stills to master. While such challenges can be terrific for progress, its easy to loose perspective on where you need to work - and there its probably even more important to find a great teacher.

There is a wonderful quote (from whence I know not, it may be ancient; I learned it from a dance guru) that 'when the student is ready the teacher will appear'. Seems that has just happened to you. Maybe this was the moment that, despite the mastery of skills you were simply not ready to take this particular plunge. Buri appeared.

From Karen Rile
Posted on August 29, 2013 at 10:27 PM
You're such a wonderful writer, Emily!
From Emily Grossman
Posted on August 30, 2013 at 4:00 AM
:) Thank you!
From Christina C.
Posted on August 30, 2013 at 2:38 PM
Love. This. Post.
From Aaron Krosnick
Posted on August 31, 2013 at 2:25 PM
This is a wonderful testimonial to hard work. I am undergoing something of a struggle to resurrect my command of the violin and viola in the face of an essential tremor that has made life difficult. I've had to change my system of fingering and bowing (and instrument, since the viola is kinder to my efforts to live with my disability) in order to "vette" each piece so it fits into my efforts to mask the tremor. It's a never-ending task that keeps me going in my middle-seventies. As someone once said, "Growing old is not for sissies". I should also thank my wonderful wife of 52 years (a virtuoso pianist) for learning viola repertoire to help me along the way.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on August 31, 2013 at 5:30 PM
Aw, Aaron, thanks for sharing your inspiring story, and good for you for continuing to pursue the violin despite your setback! Good luck, and God bless!

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