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August 2005

August 31, 2005 23:28

The community orchestra I auditioned for in May started rehearsals a couple of weeks ago. It's been six years since I played in an orchestra, so I was really looking forward to this. I'm sitting inside second stand, first violin, which is a position I like; close enough to see the conductor easily but without all the responsibility of first stand.

The music's a lot of fun too. We're playing Franz von Suppé's Poet and Peasant Overture, Sibelius' Karelia Suite, and Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Trumpets. Although I know my playing's improved tremendously since I restarted private violin lessons in May (after 13 years without a teacher), I'm reminded how different orchestral music is from solo repertoire. It's good for me to play this stuff.

A few posts ago I wrote about priorities and where my violin playing stands in my own list. To revisit this subject again, I'm not sure how much longer I actually want to stay in this orchestra. I like the music and the people and the director, but with my time as scarce as it is right now, maybe it's just too much to attend a two-hour rehearsal every week in addition to my private studies. I don't have the energy I did when I was younger, and it's exhausting to go through a full day of work, fight rush-hour traffic, then play the whole evening and not get home until 10 pm. Not to mention the guilt I feel about seeing so little of my family.

I've also got little tolerance for the antics of some orchestra members---people who keep playing after the conductor's cut us off or practice while he's talking. Well, okay, there's only one person in my section who does that, but perhaps my level of irritation is yet another sign that it's not the right time for me to be in this group.

So, I'm going to see how I feel after the first concert. If nothing else, the program pieces are short enough that my older daughter (2 1/2 years) will probably be able to sit through them, and I think it would be nice for her to see Mommy on stage. I'd like to stick around for the winter concert since we're playing the Messiah, but after that, who knows. I'd feel guilty abandoning after only half a season, but the truth is I can't afford to spend time on anything I don't completely enjoy. And while I enjoy this, I don't know if I really, really enjoy it.

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August 16, 2005 23:27

A question for my fellow violinists: how long do you usually work on a piece? Assuming that it's not for a performance or an audition, but just for learning? I've been working on the same piece (Csardas) for three months, and I'm definitely still learning a lot from it, but it feels like it's been a long time. I can't remember how long I worked on a given piece when I was a child, but back then I think I had more than one piece going at a time. I'm also working on the third movement of Brandenburg #3 in preparation for the "Brandenburg Fest" we're having next week.

I'm really excited about all this upcoming ensemble work. I haven't played with anyone except a piano accompanist in six years. The community orchestra I auditioned for back in May (in fact, I found my teacher through the orchestra directory) is finally starting rehearsals tomorrow. They take place in a community center, so we have to bring our own music stands. Will I look like an idiot if I haul my newly-purchased Manhasset in there? I hate trying to write on music that's on a wire stand.

I also realized, too, that since I haven't played in an orchestra in this millenium, I have no proper concert attire. I have until early October to find the requisite formal black dress. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

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August 12, 2005 23:20

I've been whining a lot recently---verbally, here in writing, and in my head---about how little time I have to practice my violin. As a child I played because my parents started me at the age of four and it never occurred to me to quit until I left college and opportunities became far fewer. Coming back ten years later, having fallen in love for real with the violin, and really playing it because I want to, it's frustrating that I can't give it as much time as I'd want. So this was going to be one of those "you young people don't know how good you have it, blah blah" posts that would undoubtedly make me quite unpopular, considering the large number of youth here at :)

But I finally internalized something I used to say back when I was in a musical theater group at MIT that always had difficulty recruiting students who were struggling with the difficulty of balancing the heavy demands of school with the smorgasbord of available extracurricular activities. That statement was the following: "If someone says he doesn't have time to do something, what he really means is that it's not a high enough priority." And so it is. My violin studies are important to me, but there are a few things that are more so: my family, my work, my health, and the few hours of volunteer work I do a month as a Spanish interpreter at a free clinic (foreign languages are my other passion). As much as I love my violin, I'm unwilling to sacrifice these three activities for it.

So, yeah, I could make more time to practice my violin. I could spend less time with my husband and young daughters; I think most here view family as important enough to understand that this isn't an option. I could spend fewer hours at work (which truly is my biggest time sink) but not without jeopardizing my job, which I love and which feeds my family, as I am the primary breadwinner of my household (my husband is a stay-at-home dad who does occasional contract work). I can't give up sleep, food, or exercise without sacrificing my health, which would ultimately make me less effective at everything. And the four to six hours a month I work at the clinic are the bare minimum I need to maintain my Spanish fluency and feel I'm contributing to society, so I'm not giving that up.

To summarize this long, rambling revelation: It's not that I don't have time to practice my violin. It's that I've decided other things are more important, and I'm comfortable with that decision. As my girls get older and my work gets less crazy, maybe I'll be able to devote more time to the violin...but really, I've already made my choices.

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August 5, 2005 22:20

I haven't written in a while, because I've been feeling discouraged and a bit down on the violin. Things have been really crazy at work, forcing me to stay up late into the morning and leaving me too exhausted to practice. As a result, I've slid back and forgotten some things. And at yesterday's lesson, when Virginia asked me to play the first page of the Csardas for her, I was shocked to discover that I was nervous. I've never been nervous playing in front of her, but I was this time, and it showed. My pitches were way off, and that threw off my rhythm because I kept thinking, "Ugh, I've gotta get off this wrong note as soon as possible!"

We talked about what was going on, and I think I could explain how the nervousness led to the bad pitch which led to the bad rhythm, but I'm afraid it ended up just sounding like a big bunch of excuses. And although Virginia didn't say anything directly, I had the feeling she was disappointed in me. Or maybe I was just disappointed in myself and projecting that onto her.

But anyway, I'm done licking my wounds. My in-laws are visiting this week and I'm playing at my church service with my father-in-law on Sunday---just easy stuff, but I've got to get over being upset at what is, in the grand scheme of things, a really minor setback. There is, after all, only one way to fix the problem, and that is more practice.

I often spend more time than is warranted regretting the fact that I had such lousy teachers as a child and wasted so much time; twelve years of lessons and I never got past the Bach A minor. And now that I know what it is I want and need, I don't have the time to commit to it that I want. What I do have, though, is maturity and perspective, and I hope those things will largely make up for what I don't have in experience.

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