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jennifer steinfeldt  warren

June 4, 2005 at 5:16 PM

I think that one of the hardest things I have to learn about the violin, is exactly what role it plays in my being, and what percentage of my character it is allowed to claim. I definately go through stages. Sometimes it isn't an issue at all, even. But at others, it is a source of much confusion or satisfaction or stress. Someone asks why I am a musician. Do I answer that I love music with my whole being and heart, or do I answer that since the age of four, it has been what I have known. I have spent my whole life preparing for it and being immersed in it and know no other lifestyle? Do I practice because I truly want to improve, or out of a sense of guilt, or because if I don't play for a few days, something feels not quite right stirring within, and I start to not act like myself?

I remember in high school, I worked full time at McDonalds to earn some money for the family. I developed friendships and relationships in the workplace, but I kept telling them that they really couldn't know me all the way until they heard and saw me play. Unless they were part of that. I really believed that. Throughout college I became increasingly aware that my life's tides were directly connected to my playing successes and failures. I could not separate someone's opinion of my playing or comment about a performance from who I am. If a concert felt bad afterwards, I was depressed for days. I was a failure. I know you get the gist.

Last summer, as some of you are aware, I had experiences which severely shook my sense of what I am capable of. I became unable to positively look at the future of my violin career. I didn't want to practice. It was a two way street. My personal problems affected my playing, which had become my identity, which made things spiral. When I was feeling on top of the world, the rosin flew and I sounded amazing. Needless to say, I was inconsistant and my playing was inconsistant. And I knew enough to know that professionally, one must have consistancy in their playing.
So I thought I'd quit. But I didn't know who I was without it. And I became very bitter. Very angry. That it had come to this. That I was a wooden instrument and not a person. That music was my language and not english. I wasn't allowed the option of quitting. It wasn't fair. I couldnt' do anything else. I was stuck forever. So I trudged on, if anything pretending, that things were the same. But it was hard to really give my all.

Something has changed, though. I don't know if it is age, or graduating, or separation from something. But I finally feel as if I can love music for its own qualities. That I can understand my playing and how it is part of who I am because I am in control of it and I want to be. Partly this is because I all of a sudden have to make career choices. I have to decide, almost like a pie chart, how to allot my time and energy. What I truly want to do and what I truly am. Partly it is because for the first time in my life, the pressures have lifted and I realized that I still want it. I practice for myself. I don't care if I don't reach some set standard. It makes me work harder because it is in my blood to apply myself and obsess about it and make my little practice schedules and research and grow. And I can feel satisfied. If I am playing badly one day, I don't think I am bad. And as for a career, I want music! I want to play the violin! But I can do other things at the same time as well that I enjoy. It isn't exclusive. I feel like, as a puzzle, the pieces have come to terms with each other and are sliding into place. I am many things and I may have illnesses and limitations and want to learn other trades. But I am a violinist. I am also Jennifer. It is hard to explain, actually. I would not be the same person without my violin. But I would not cease to exist. I'd adapt if, say, I had an injury.

I think, to some extent, anyone who is deeply emmerged in the music world must deal with this at some point in time. It can be the downfall of a person if they can't find balance between world, person, and event. I caution against driving too hard and investing everything in your violin. It can lead to success, but ultimately, don't we want to play because it makes us happy? That can get lost. I used to practice 6 hours a day. Then I burnt out and couldn't get more than 1. RIght now I'm at the point where I practice about 2 or 3 hours a day. And if something is wrong in life, then it will not be the fall of this person to take a little break. It isn't like hybernation. It is like meditation. Anyhow. All that said, I'm excited about my practice schedule for today. I'm off to dig into it.
Sals,
JW

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on June 5, 2005 at 2:55 AM
Jennifer, that is a very moving story of your personal journey. It sounds like you have resolved a lot of things in your mind and have found some peace. I'm glad that you feel comfortable about playing because you enjoy it and because you are the kind of person you are. I also like your view that taking a break in not hibernating, but rather meditating.
From Jonathan Stuchell
Posted on June 5, 2005 at 6:36 PM
I understand that, it sounds like me - and a lot of others in the 'violin village' - and its a small village. Others don't understand what we go through,
the ebbs and flows of weeks of preparation, performance and then either letdown or that 'high as a kite' feeling we all have experienced. God gave us this 'gift', but there is a struggle that goes along with it.
We are sensitive and God instilled that in us for a reason. I went through a long perioed of struggling and I finally said,
'Help me God' and He swiftly delivered me out of darkness.
and now I always think of Psalm 32:7 He is faithful to those who seek after Him.

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