November 2009

What a difference an attitude makes.

November 7, 2009 09:14

 This is concert weekend for me, and we are doing a great program.....Beethoven Violin Concerto, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughn Williams,  Prometheus Overture and the first movement of Schubert's 7th Symphony.  It is a violinists program (though I am playing viola for the Vaughn Williams) and may be one of my all-time favorite concerts to play. 

I've re-committed myself to the orchestra this year.  The last several years have been stressful, with my mom's illness and death and a few other life events.  Because of all the traveling I was doing, I've only played about half of the concerts of the last few seasons.  At the same time, the symphony was making some (what I consider) bone-headed decisions involving the musicians.  I had gotten to the point where I was disgusted with them, feeling taken-for-granted (we are a volunteer orchestra, except for special events) and going to rehearsals and concerts had begun feeling burdensome and stressful.  So, my anger and stress was being carried into my experience of music-making.

As I've mentioned in other blogs, another result of my juggling major life events was that I found I hardly had time to really just play.  I teach both piano and violin, but most of my violin playing time had been reduced to the time I spend in the studio with my students.  When I did play concerts,  I was just coming in for concert weekend, with no regular rehearsals under my belt, and I was usually sitting at the front of the section in a relatively small group, which was stressful in its own right.

This year represents a new time of life for me, and I had decided (upon being put on blood-pressure meds) that it was time for me to do somethings for me.  I have a newly-empty nest, and newly-retired husband, and have gotten through some of the rapids.  It felt like a good time to re-write my life choices, and include some 'me' things into the mix.  I decided that I had lost myself as a player in the last few years...in the 'just getting through' times of juggling major things, that was a ball that got dropped. 

I remember being at one of the those 'last minute' concerts last year.  We were doing the Tchaikovsky Symphony #4, which I love.  As we were playing along, I was swept away by the experience of being a small part of the large whole, and of being a part of something amazing.  It felt like a priviledge to be there.  

I also remember when I first began playing.  I picked up the instrument at age 36, with no prior string exposure.  I had played with the same orchestra as a clarinetist years ago, but my goal was to come back as a violinist.  I played my first concert with them 2 1/2 years later.  At the time, that was the highest goal I could imagine...to be able to play in the 2nd violin section of the orchestra.  I worked hard and loved every minute of it.

So fast forwarding to now....  when I came back to the orchestra this year, it was with a spirit of gratitude and enthusiasm.  I vowed not to let myself get caught up in orchestra politics, or resentment, but rather I wanted to remember every time I play how lucky I am that I get to do this.  Not many adult beginners are able to have these opportunities.  I am not only welcome in the group, I am a vital part of it.  So, I want to embrace that part of myself that is blessed to be able to identify myself as a musician and as a violinist.  

Which brings me to joy...  this year, I find myself becoming excited about each rehearsal.  Nothing has changed about our orchestra or the people in it.  The only change is in me, and in my open-arms approach to the experience.  I started playing the violin because I love music. I love playing the violin.  I love the freedom of having gotten to a level of playing where the notes can dance off of the string, and the bow has become my friend.  This is a blessing and a gift.  

My attitude of recent years was a result of the inevitable choices that I needed to make while going through 'the valley'.  In that regard, I excuse myself, but I choose a different thing now.

Last night, there were 2 distinct moments in the rehearsal that almost brought me to tears.  One was in the Vaughn Williams, in the climatic 'big'  section near the end.  I was playing viola, so had cellists on one side of me, viola on the other and could hear all the other violin parts surrounding me.  While I was playing triplet arpeggios for all I was worth, there was a part of my brain that was marveling...no, maybe even blown away at what we were all doing together.  Oh my word.....Heavenly.  Loud, intense, emotional and so beautiful.  I almost wanted to cry...I did grin. 

Then later in the Beethoven Concerto....  at the same time I was marveling at the beauty of the piece and the player, I became aware of who was around me.  Behind me were two students age 13 and 14.  One of them  I started on violin in 3rd grade in a school program where I taught for 3 years.  The other I had in that same program, but have also taught privately for several years since.

Sitting over in the first violin section was a student of mine who just started studying at the university level.  I'd had him from the beginning until this year.  His stand partner is a woman in her 70s who had a stroke a few years ago. MY stand partner is a very well-known luthier (who just won a gold medal a few weeks ago in Cremona).  There is a woman in her 50s fighting cancer.  It struck me again how the music made peers of us all.  We are all equals.  It was an overwhelming moment, but I was struck with a sense of gratitude again.  

We get caught up in the details, schedules, demands of being musicians.  But we are lucky people....  so lucky.  I'm trying to bring gratitude and blessing back into the character of making music.  

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