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Amber Rollins

The 'T' Question

April 3, 2011 at 12:19 AM

I spent most of my life thinking that I didn't really know anything about music. Because I couldn't play like Paganini the second I picked up the violin (or guitar or drums or whatever), I thought I was hopeless. Everyone knows that if you're not a famous musician by the time you're twelve, there's no hope, right?

My mother played piano. My grandfather played piano. My great grandfather was a conductor who wrote symphonies, according to my mom. I never met him. This doesn't make me talented, but it does mean I come from a bit of musical family. Somehow, I thought this all didn't count.

I played guitar as a teenager and drums (trap set, hand drums, etc.) as a young adult. But I wasn't a musician. Not, you know, really.

This is all to say that one of the biggest hurdles I've had to overcome while learning violin is the idea that I'm not ever going to be very good, because if I was, everyone would know by now. Nonsense, of course. It takes practice. But it's a mental thing.

I keep wanting to ask my violin teacher the frightening, forbidden "T" question: am I talented? I'm afraid to hear the answer. It's really an unanswerable question for a beginner. The teacher says something to the effect that you're a beginner and need more practice and the student takes this as a "no" and gives up. You say yes and the student starts feeling superior. Doesn't stop me from wondering, though.

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