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jennifer steinfeldt  warren

Lesson no.1

February 1, 2007 at 10:56 PM

Today I had my first viola lesson since April or so. It was hard. I'm not sure exactly why, and I've been looking forward to it for so long...I think I disappointed myself, mostly.

The student before me was playing Bach suite no.2, prelude. It was amazing. I love her viola sound. It is almost 17 inches. But, to her credit, she is a fantastic and awesome violist. I melted. Before even starting my lesson.

I slept through my alarm, waking up 20 min. before my lesson was to start. I'm a person that takes a few hours to get going in the morning, so that in itself really made it difficult to have a lesson that would make me proud of myself. Not that the point of lessons is to come away proud of your playing.

I started my lesson by playing Bach Sonata No. 1 for solo violin, arr. for viola. I was not pleased with my performance at all. It was not beautiful. My viola didn't sound good. I wasn't relaxed. By the middle I wanted it to be over. Anyway, my playing was far from my best. It was actually a good lesson in how to rebound from that feeling...dispel the annoyance at the self and focus on the work for the week ahead. Find the natural excitement and motivation a lesson brings us.

I was so caught up in wanting to impress my teacher that I wasn't focusing on the music. I didn't feel like I was even really there. Maybe I wasn't awake yet. Or maybe that is part of an ingrained lesson thing.

We ended up doing a lesson of open strings with my shoulder blades and back of head against the wall with hips relaxed forward, working on viola placement.
She noticed that my use of my upper body is incredibly..well...wrong. Tendons and muscles etc. standing out on my neck while playing, neck tense, shoulders scrunched in, head not aligned, back being used incorrectly, strain and tension just to hold the viola up! Upper body a mess.

I don't understand it. I hold my violin well. My viola for some reason isn't able to be held in the same way. Ack!

I left the lesson torn between several emotions. 1. I felt like a beginner, and was embarassed by my playing.
2. I realized that the problems which need to be fixed are major, and going to take a long time, and not be easy.
3. Incredible greatfulness and joy and excitement that I have a teacher who works well with me, can help me with these things, and is willing to do so.

There is no shame in going back to the beginning. In working on body usage and technique at the very simplest level. It feels kind of bad at first, but being a teacher myself, I know that there is no shame in it.

So... I've got new resolves, and heightened awareness of body use. My teacher is doing me a great service. It is about finding health, which can open up and free my music. I can't wait until I will feel freedom and open-ness while playing viola.

I am thankful for a teacher who can give me the tools and guidance I need in order to find that..

Now, off to practice.


From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 1, 2007 at 11:01 PM
Buck up! We are all rooting for you.
From Neil Cameron
Posted on February 2, 2007 at 12:19 AM
A teacher of mine once threatened to get me a "But I played it better at home!" button.

I come away from every lesson feeling less than proud. :)


From Mendy Smith
Posted on February 2, 2007 at 3:47 AM
Sounds like you had the same lesson that I did last night :)
From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 2, 2007 at 4:06 AM
Your lesson, oh how it reminds me of some I've had! Unfortunately, my shyness and insecurities only build when I have to perform for my teacher, and I don't believe he'll ever get to hear how I really play. I'm glad your teacher has been helpful to you. You can work this stuff out!
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 2, 2007 at 12:05 PM
It's really great how you can say (and mean) "this was a great lesson in how to bounce back from that disappointed feeling." Being able to do that is a gift in itself.

People often told me (and I never believed them, but maybe it was true) that when you think you did poorly at a lesson, your perception of how you did is usually not as bad as you think. Teachers are always going to find something for you to work on--that's what they're there for.

This seems to be "problems with holding the viola" week. I've got those too, but I'm not as articulate as you about it.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 2, 2007 at 5:36 PM
I second Emily's comment. My teacher will never hear me at my best.

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