Today is the Winter Solstice, the longest and darkest day of the year. Many cultures celebrate with candles, lighting of fires and other light-and-darkness symbolism, reflecting on the last year while looking forward to the return of more light to the world, literally.
I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that the world has been covered in darkness for the last two years. While individual experiences vary, collectively we have all experienced the heaviness, turmoil, stress, conflict, grief, and myriad other emotions.
Within the darkness for me, there have been flickers of light and fleeting moments of joy against the backdrop of fear and sadness. Often, those moments have been brought by music. Here on the darkest day - at a time where it looks like things are getting darker, not lighter - I invite you to reflect with me and to share (in the comments) your own moments of musical light from the last year.
Starting at the beginning of 2021, a blazing moment of light came for me in January, when I was invited to play violin in-person at my church at a service attended by the newly inaugurated President. With masking and distancing protocols in place, standing next to a heavy-duty air filter and a considerable Secret Service presence, I felt as safe as I possibly could. Getting to play violin in-person, with a dear friend at the piano, in a place I love (with considerably better acoustics than my basement apartment) -- kept me going for quite awhile. (As did gleefully calling my friends to tell them I played violin for the President!)
Through much of the year I found steady, comforting warmth through the online technique class Violin Breakfast, created and taught by pedagogue Amy Beth Horman. Her creativity, positivity, and dedication to daily fundamentals inspired me every time I managed to drag myself to Zoom, and the exercises left me feeling simultaneously freer and more secure than I ever have on my instrument. As a teacher, I also rediscovered the importance and restorative power of being a student again at times - to receive the energy given by someone else.
Playing some outdoor concerts with my students as weather warmed in April and May also gave me a huge boost. Seeing and hearing them in person was simply wonderful - affirming, joyous. Seeing their joy in music and performance lifted my own spirits considerably.
And, in a shining moment of collective effervescence, attending alongside what seemed like every other (vaccinated, masked) violin-lover in the D.C. area, hearing Hilary Hahn and the National Symphony Orchestra perform the Brahms Violin Concerto in-person at the Kennedy Center made me fall in love with music all over again.
The energy in the room was electrifying. The crowd's excitement was palpable from the second Hahn walked onstage, as was the joy coming from the musicians onstage. All of us were ecstatic to hear in-person music again.
Between those larger, landmark events, little moments within the music community online have been like little candles in the darkness, lighting the way on some of the worst days. An encouraging comment on Instagram or one of my blog posts here. A message from a musical friend, reminding me that I’m not alone. A particularly funny meme or tweet posted that startles me into laughing out loud in the middle of my regular scrolling. Something from a podcast that feels like the speaker has a magical insight into my own musical challenges.
So, happy Solstice to all. I'd love to hear what your own moments of musical light this year have been down in the comments!
You might also like:
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.