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March 2010

Goals, Dreams, Cold Reality

March 30, 2010 05:56

Learning to play the violin is never an easy undertaking. It is a difficult instrument, and not one to be tried by the faint of heart. I have smiled when I've had young students who thought that after a few short lessons they would be playing like virtuosos, not realizing the technical heights they would have to scale to reach that lofty goal. Sometimes, however, even adults can forget that playing this instrument is not as easy as a gifted player makes it appear. However, raw ability is not the only factor involved for an adult in learning to play any instrument, let alone the violin; age, time commitments, and disability are among the things that can affect an adult's potential.

When I first picked up my violin again after many years of not playing, I had every reason to be optimistic. I was in my late 30's yes, but I was committed to learning to play the instrument well. I had not yet been diagnosed with MS, and the tremor which has caused me so much difficulty was still years away. I took lessons with a good teacher, and initially made good progress. I impressed her with my ability to work hard and be prepared at my lessons. The fact that I had played before and still retained some of what I had learned, in spite of not having played in 15 years or so, helped a great deal.

Then my teacher, who was busy with her own family and was pregnant again, cut back on her teaching and passed me to another teacher. This teacher wasn't quite as good, and her techniques were a little different. She pushed me a little too far ahead too fast, and I think my playing tone suffered for it. I wasn't with her too long and then she had to leave (something about her immigration status - she was from Singapore). So then I went to the man who is my current teacher. Now he is very good, if a little impatient. My tone improved, my intonation improved, my technique improved, and all around I was a better violinist. I auditioned for and was accepted at Ball State University as a music education major. 

I won't go into all the details, but suffice to say that the grueling schedule of a mus-ed major, combined with being a wife and mother, and driving 55 miles a day both ways (the distance from where I live in Kokomo to Muncie) took its toll on my health and my grades. MS, which I'd had for some 20 years at that point with no diagnosis, began to exact its toll, with extreme fatigue and memory problems. Unable to keep up with the course work at this point, after two years I dropped out and took an AA degree in general studies at IU Kokomo.

Unfortunately in the ten years since then my playing has not improved significantly. Some of that has been my own lack of due diligence, I confess - I can't blame it all on MS (as convenient an excuse as that may be). I have gone back to my old teacher (with him almost 2 years now), and he gets a little aggravated because I haven't kept up with scales as I should. I confess I've gotten lazy. I'm not sure anymore what my goals are., or what they should be. My teacher says I'm "too old" now, that I'll never be able to play some of the more difficult literature, and maybe that's true. I'm not ready by any means to pack up my fiddle and call it a day.

So where do I go from here? 15 years ago I had a clear goal in mind. I knew where I was going and how I was going to get there. Unfortunately I've had to take a major detour, and the way is no longer clear. I've lost my way, and I really need a compass to help me out of this wilderness! Should I be content with playing at church and the nursing home? Is that enough? Perhaps for now. Maybe I'll go to the city park and unpack my fiddle and just start playing sometime. And I shouldn't forget that I have a standing invitation at the local historical society to play at the mansion in town. So I will apply myself to my practice more diligently, MS notwithstanding and expand my repertoire. As long as I am able to play I will. I don't know how long that will be, but as long as it is, I will do it.

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