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Nature or Nurture

June 10, 2009 at 2:35 PM

Have been wondering a lot about nature vs. nurture when it comes to musicians. It's so hard to tell which qualities are essential, let alone which are innate. When I was taken to my first violin teacher, Zinaida Gilels, at the Central Music School in Moscow, she looked at my left hand and said-that pinky's just too short. But when she heard me sing, she accepted me, because, as she put it-hands can be trained, but an ear for music can't be created.

More to the point, what is it in people that makes them want to play music? Play it on stage? Of all the musicians I know, some are nervous wrecks, some entirely sanguine, and yet, such different approaches seem to yield equally good results.

To clear up matters a bit, I'd like to pose to all of you 3 questions

1.When did you fall in love with music?

2.Did you immediately know which instrument was "for you"?

3. How do you feel about the private experience of music, as opposed to playing it in front of an audience?

Posted on June 10, 2009 at 4:29 PM
  1. don't remember
  2. no...sort of decided for me since my dad played violin and viola
  3. always was and still is the personal side. I never enjoyed the performance aspect (look at me)

From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 10, 2009 at 6:48 PM

1.  My parents told me that I walked around the house at age 3 whistling the Archduke Trio.

2.  My parents decided violin for me.  Knowing what I know now, if I could have made the decision at age 8 for myself, clarinet or trumpet would have been tempting instead of violin.

3.  The private aspect is very important.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on June 10, 2009 at 6:53 PM

1.  I don't know if I ever fell in love with "Music," the general concept.  I fell in love with the idea of a parent playing fiddle music for and with his family when I read the "Little House on the Prarie" books at around age 7.

2.  I then insisted on learning to play the violin, also at age 7.  Fortunately, they were offering it in school that year.  I remember a friend wanted to play the viola and I tried to talk her out of it.

3.  The private experience of music was almost the sum total experience of music (at least the sum total of musical experience that I enjoyed) for me until relatively recently.  I had terrible performance anxiety that I didn't begin to get over until my 20's.  I'm still not really over it, but these days I fall in the normal range of nerves--they're annoying, but manageable.

From Bart Meijer
Posted on June 10, 2009 at 6:47 PM

1.When did you fall in love with music?

When I heard and saw my Mom and Dad playing violin duets and dancing while they played :). It must have been before Kindergarten.

2.Did you immediately know which instrument was "for you"?

Yes. I wanted to have such fun too, and I was fascinated by the idea that such beautiful sounds could come out of so little a box. Even tried to make violins from pieces of string and cigar boxes.

3. How do you feel about the private experience of music, as opposed to playing it in front of an audience?

I must be disturbed: I like to practise! (Laurie once coined the term "freakazoid" for people like that).The "better than last week/month/year" bug has got me. And playing, paying attention to the details in the music gets me acquainted with it in ways not attainable otherwise. It makes me better able to enjoy someone else's performance. When I do play in public nowadays it's mostly to assist one of my daughters on their piano or cello. But when I played in public more I enjoyed that too.

Great subject!

From Christopher Liao
Posted on June 10, 2009 at 8:32 PM

1. I listened to Itzhak Perlman play Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. Dvorak's "American" String Quartet grew on me too.

2. Yep. I love my instrument... it takes some work to coax the sound out of it, though. It's sort of viola-ish, which I like.

3. The experience of music for me encompasses both public and private aspects. Publicly, I play for the enjoyment of others; music is a universal language after all. Privately, I enjoy classical music perhaps a little more freely, always trying to explore new things. When I listen to classical music, I actually prefer to be alone.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 10, 2009 at 9:30 PM

Hi, this is a great idea!

1-  Immidiately, the second I held a violin for the first time : 14 :( but I am not ashamed at all about this.  It was not my fault if I didn't have contact with this before!

2- No, in fact, in my non musical family, there is no "violin" culture and all the horror stories I heard were frightening but with courage, anyone can play violin! Can't say I am not affected by hearing these wonderful stories of people from Europe or kids from musical families that played since 2... But it is not Jealousy, just that I find them very very lucky and would have liked to live in a family like this :)

3-  I have a very musical head (not so much the body...) and this aspect came naturally (also think my 14 years old made me all ready mature mentally).  Privatly at home, when I take all my time to warm up, I had super experiences but my body is naturally clumsy and not coordinated so at the minute I step on front of any public without having my hands warm and body flexible...  It sinks like the Titanic!!!   However, in concerts (where I do a circus to warm myself up) I had good ennough positive experiences that "lit" the fire once again and pushed me even harder to try to realize this silly dream!  I like as much private than public playing (the public playing can be terrorizing but it is  what strenghen's you in my opinion and I believe that the most painful experiences are there to put you even stronger and teach you things. )  If you decide to play publically, however, it is irresponsible to not even care about your sound.  People will take time to listen to you so "doing your very best" is compulsory (no matter the level and  mistakes.  The intention is what is essential... ).  There is nothing more terrible than listening to someone who don't even care about what he\she gives.  (why would one play if one don't care about it???)

  Interesting topic!



From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on June 11, 2009 at 12:03 AM

1. I'm not sure there was any one point in time where I fell in love with music. It's been so gradual. I've been playing violin since little, and my sister played before me, so I've grown up with it.

2. This is a process I'm still experiencing. My parents started me with private lessons on violin when I was 5, and aside from some junior high grumbling, I've really enjoyed it. However, this past year, I've been studying viola seriously as well, and I've instantly fallen in love with it. I love both instruments, but my gut instinct right now is to pursue viola more in the future.

3. I think they both have sublime and painful moments. Some of my most interesting musical breakthroughs are in the privacy of the practice room, and yet, I've experienced moments of tedium in practicing. Likewise, I've had some very, very special, meaningful performances, and some stressful, disappointing ones. 

From Roy Sonne
Posted on June 11, 2009 at 12:43 AM

Hello Anastasia,

First of all, great to see you here on I've been an admirer of your playing ever since Jon Frohnen introduced me to your MySpace videos.

I started playing violin at age five because my mom used to play. I never had any particular sense that the violin, as opposed to any other instrument was the one I loved. I continued playing and as I got more proficient my enjoyment increased. I don't know that there was a sense of passionate love either for the instrument or for the music. It was just something that I did.

A crucial turning point came during my junior year in high school. I joined a chamber music class in the Mannes Prep Department. I was put into a string quartet and for an entire year we studied the Beethoven Op. 18#1 quartet. That quartet experience changed my life. It was a high powered group -- all except myself were experienced chamber music players who had played together for years and formed lasting friendships through quartet playing. They took me right into the fold. The first violinist was Martha Strongin who later became the violist of the Cleveland Quartet. I played second violin. The violist was Sammy Rhodes who later joined the Juilliard Quartet. The cellist was Dave Greene who has disappeared from the scene. What an introduction to chamber music!

Over the years the violin has become my "voice". But it has been a gradual evolution. When I was ten yrs. old I started playing piano. Although I never became as proficient on piano as on the violin, there were many years when I felt more enjoyment in my piano playing. Gradually the violin has become my most personal means of expression.

My greatest musical satisfaction comes either when I am practicing or playing chamber music. Performing in public has never been the ultimate satisfaction for me. Performing serves many purposes. It provides a goal and a focus for my practice. It gives a sense of accomplishment. It advances me professionally. And it provides some glory too. But in terms of artistic fulfillment -- that usually happens at home. And that's a good thing because I can find artistic satisfaction every day at home. I don't have to wait weeks or months for the next solo performance.

From Michael Divino
Posted on June 11, 2009 at 1:47 AM

1. A complex question.  I started violin in fifth grade (now a junior) and I plan to go to music school.  There was never a watershed moment where I didn't love it before and then bam! it just happens.  I started playing violin, and I started buying music that a violin makes- I think the earilest recordings I bought were of orchestral excerpts I was playing.  Perhaps the disc with Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Greensleeves was first, then I think followed by Handel's Messiah??????  Then I just bought recordings of things I was playing, then that just kept expanding into buying multiple recordings of the same piece.  I never thought playing the violin was dumb, I thought it was really cool.  As I've gotten older, I appreciate music for the emotions a piece can elicit from me, and in my next stage of musical development, I want to study the structure of music.  So basically, a slow progression, not a eureka moment.

2.  Only ever played violin, but I think the oboe is particularly beatiful.

3. Private music- I'm taking this as rehearsing or listening to music.  It's very personal because you listen to or practice the piece of your choice.  You can give a private recital to say your parents or dog. But an audience is there exclusively to hear you.  It's personal too, but publicly so.  You (usually) have programmed the piece.  Which means it speaks to you and therefore it is your job to try as best as you can to get that accross to the audience.


Not too long-winded, right?

From Laurie Niles
Posted on June 11, 2009 at 3:41 AM

1. I think I fell in love with music in the crib. Rumor has it I used to rock the crib so hard that it made a hole in the wall; I'm thinking the music was in my head and I was just rocking along. As a toddler I'd sit on the couch, bouncing against the back, or a rocking chair, rocking, and listen to LPs for a very long time. No classical music in the home, so I heard my live-in grandmother's Andy Williams records and musicals!

2. It didn't occur to me to play an instrument until a little girl demonstrated one to our fourth grade class. I almost "recognized" it, so strong was my pull to it. My family was completely puzzled but let me run down this path. Later, I learned that my other grandmother's maiden name was Geiger. So maybe it was in the blood after all!

3. I love to play in the orchestra, it's really what I love the most. One time, a stand partner said before a concert, "See you at the end!" I thought that was so funny, we're all playing together, yes? But we all have our private experience of that. Interesting.

From David Beck
Posted on June 11, 2009 at 4:48 AM

1. I didn't "fall in love" at once. It was more like a shot-gun marriage - we learned to rub along later. There were to be violin lessons at my school, where my mother was head teacher. I was "volunteered". There was no special musical talent in the family, but I did sing a solo in the local Church choir.

2. Hobsons choice - violin lessons or nothing. It was the calibre of the teacher that aroused my interest. I was anxious about the prospect of learning until I realised, before my first lesson at age 8, that you could play lots of notes in one bowoke. Actually, I became very attracted to the oboe, but didn't get to play one until retirement.

My humble oboe efforts are immortalised on

3. I enjoyed professional playing, in quartets and orchestras, yet I was always too nervous and retirement was a relief. Also, my pinky is too small too - it's very hard to play thirds without fouling the wrong string. In retirement I compose stuff mainly for my own soul - yet for some reason I don't listen or go to concerts much. Maybe I don't like thinking how my colleagues might be suffering !!

From Royce Faina
Posted on June 11, 2009 at 10:08 AM

Greetings from Wonderful, Rainy, Wyoming,

1) My family has been very music oriented as far as we can remember.  I learned how to put records on a record player before I could walk. Seriously!

2) All instruments facinated me. but when I was 10 and Mrs. Gross was at my school (Woodlawn Elementry) signing kids up for orchestra she played the instruments and when she played the violin it hit me, "That's It!  Learn that one!"

3)  There are those things that are only manifest during my privarte playing which is just for me and the instrument. No one else.  And there are those things that are for public performance.

Have a great day and thanks for the Blogg!


From Catie Rinderknecht
Posted on June 11, 2009 at 2:05 PM


1.  I don't know when exactly I fell in love with music.  It's always been a part of my life whether it was listening to classical music, hearing my dad sing lush choral music as part of a community choir, or hymnody.  It's just always been there.

2.  My mom picked it out for me.  In fifth grade I wanted to play the trumpet ('cause my best friend did), but I knew I didnn't have time.  Now, I wish I'd had voice lessons...  but I'm thrilled that I play violin; it's wonderful!

3.  I strongly dislike performing solo.  Orchestral performances or chamber music performances are fun.  Solo *shudders*...  I like how personal the music is for me.  Thus, that makes practice more rewarding.  It's weird, I don't mind sharing my playing with a couple people who really want to learn, but an audience makes me feel like I'm being judged (even though I'm not). 

From Shailee Kennedy
Posted on June 11, 2009 at 3:08 PM

1. I've always loved music. Much more so than anyone else in my family. They think I'm a little weird.

2. I tried piano and flute when I was a kid, and guitar when I was a teenager, and failed miserably at all of them. Then at 41 I found the violin, and I knew immediately that it was my instrument.  

3. For me, the whole point of learning to play is so that I can play in front of people and with other musicians---I wouldn't even bother with it if I were only going to be playing alone, where no one could hear---music is to be shared.

From Maurizio Cassandra
Posted on June 12, 2009 at 4:07 PM

1)I falled in love with music  at thirteen years old when i listen the rondò capriccioso by Saent Saens and the romanza in fa by Beethoven. A famous italian musicalogist gave me an LP of this musics.

2) At first I prefered keeboards but my mum told me about the beautiful sound of violin that she heard during serenades when she was young, so I played violin.

3) Nowaday i prefer public performance, but when i was at the begin i prefered private study.

Excuse me for my english.


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