November 2013

Nerves are temporary - but memories are forever

November 29, 2013 01:08

Last evening, just before sitting down for thanksgiving dinner, and just over 5 weeks after I first picked up a violin, I gave my first "performance". The "audience" were my family, along with our family priest. My playing partner in the duet was my wonderful teacher Liz Holland.

I have been practicing "The Kiss", also known as the theme from the Last of the Mohicans, along with the first few bars of Schindler's list. Despite the fact that I was comfortable with the pieces, and had practiced them well, on the evening itself I truly came face to face with "performance nerves". Here I was, having previously stared down audiences in presentations and lecture theaters, and live TV on numerous occasions, and having taught large groups of people and being a regular public speaker, suddenly unable to keep my bow hand still from shaking !

Even though the audience was my family, I found myself forgetting notes that I knew backwards, but most embarrassingly my bowing hand continued to shake.

Luckily it was only my family, and not Carnegie Hall, and after dinner I got to play again, this time with a semblance of order. The thing that stood out for me (apart from the fact that I now understand what real "nerves" are like)is the look of surprise and joy on the faces of my family. The nerves settled down, but the memory will stay forever.

Anyone out there who wonders why they persist when things are tough in practice need only visualise what a giving instrument the violin can be. In my case "nerves" meant a jittery bow, and the unfortunate tendency to rush through the music, which meant that bars which previously sounded fairly musical, became wooden. The other problem with rushing at this early stage is that the left hand comes in on itself fairly quickly, and this in turn led to my missing notes. I guess the other thing to say to anyone who is practicing or preparing to play in front of an audience for the first time is that you should not underestimate the impact of nervousness, however there are simple techniques that can truly be helpful. In my case I did not follow some of those techniques well enough, but I can see now, with recent hindsight, just what my teacher was talking about when she tried to prepare me. I hope this blog (and the video link) might help other beginners. In any event, I have to say that I loved every second, and the smiles on the faces of my family means that it was all worth it at the end.

As you will see from the link below, I am not going to ever be a threat to Joshua Bell, and there is more "wrong" than "right", but just 5 weeks after first picking up the fiddle, and at my relatively advanced age (I am 51), its an inspiration to me to continue practicing and playing. The short video, taken by my brother on his phone, is unfortunately from the first bit after we started, which was the most wooden and error prone, but at least it gives you a sense of what can be achieved with a little practice and the support of a great teacher.

Enjoy your violins everyone !!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHtV7iyk4f4&feature=youtu.be

1 reply

who said age was a barrier?

November 18, 2013 15:26

At the age of 51 (actually, 51 and 3 months to be exact), I picked up a violin for the first time. 4 weeks later, and I am absolutely smitten. I wish I could say something about my playing ability, but I can say that I have the most patient and wonderful teacher, and earlier this week somehow managed to coax a tune out of the blessed violin that has put up with my screeches.

But seriously, as they say, why oh why did I wait till I was half a century old before I gave it a go. My first few lessons I was more embarrassed by having to pass parents who were younger than me, bringing their children who could be my grandchildren, into the class. Slowly but surely I managed to hold the bow with some semblance of "form", and after my second week, I started to get my fingers in broadly the right place at the right time.

I have spent a lifetime being in love with the great violin pieces. And now, finally, I had the courage to pick up an instrument of my own.

Anyone out there who has not yet tried - give it a go. After all, you can hardly be worse than me, and guess what, I have not smiled this much and felt happier for a very long time.

Lets hope my wife retains her sense of humour as I continue to practice !

(Ilyas - sent from Surrey in England)

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