What was it that made you want to play the violin, or viola, or other instrument that you play?
Was it perhaps that you found a giant violin in the desert?
I couldn't resist using this picture -- it's one of the craziest images of a violin that I've found thus far. Also, I've been driving for two days across the western U.S. desert to get from Los Angeles to Denver for my daughter's graduation from college, and though I saw some pretty other-worldly rock formations, I did not encounter a giant fiddle embedded in the sand. (Though after about eight hours of desert driving it might not have surprised me!)
Nonetheless I have this question for you, and it comes from my friend Ann, with whom I'm staying in the Mile-High city. She is a violinist who is an inspiration to anyone who started as an adult. (Keep practicing, adult beginners!) Her answer was that her husband gave her a violin as a graduation gift, when she'd earned her master's degree in math. That fiddle changed her life, leading her into orchestra and chamber playing, teaching, and even lutherie. At this point she definitely does as much fiddling as math-ing - maybe more!
For me, it was a combination of things, but picking from the answers below, I'd have to say I heard someone play and I loved it. I could also answer that my school program offered it, but it was not until little Sarah Beck came to our fourth-grade classroom and played us a little Irish Jig that I felt an overwhelming feeling that I needed to be playing that instrument! I went rushing home to my mother and announced that I needed to start playing the violin, immediately. "But you're going to play the piano," she said. "But we don't have a piano!" I responded. Thus began my long journey on the violin.
What made you start playing your instrument? Please answer the vote, choosing the answer that feels closest for you, and then describe the specifics in the comments sections.
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I voted option number 1. I lied.
Here is what really happened: I was riding across the desert on my camel. Suddenly I saw a strange object sticking in the sand. I got off my camel and dug the object out. I have been playing with it ever since.
I voted "I heard someone play and loved it." I'd already started listening to classical music at home on radio and recordings before preschool. My parents liked hearing it, and so did I. They suspected I had musical ability when I was 7 y/o -- because I would sit and listen for several hours each Saturday morning in winter to albums from their classical music collection. So they enrolled me in beginning piano lessons on a trial basis to see what would happen.
But not long after, the violin muse got hold of me. A professional orchestra played at my elementary school. Now I could see, as well as hear, how string players brought to life some of the scores I'd heard at home. I made the switch from piano to violin. I actually started fingering and bowing familiar tunes by ear on a half-sized fiddle before I had my first lessons.
I'd be at a loss now to explain how I managed to pull this off, but I did. Also, thanks to piano instruction, I could read music, so I soon started learning a few items from my first instruction book -- again before first lessons.
My story is a combination of things. My dad heard Yehudi Menuhin play when he was a young man and decided someone in the family should play the violin. I was the youngest in the family. My siblings both played clarinet. I was chosen to play the violin even though at the time I wanted to play flute. I'm now very happy to play stringed instruments (my favorite is viola). There are so many opportunities to play.
Many kids start music at ages where wind instruments just aren't really possible. So, it's violin, cello, piano, and guitar. One reason these things run in families is because once you've bought a 1/4 size violin you can protect your investment by having more than one child make use of it.
My father played the violin, practiced every evening after work and had a weekly string quartet. My grandfather, his father, gave me a violin for my 4th birthday. I started to bow it immediately (thought of it as playing - I can't remember exactly how much left-hand stuff I was doing). After 6 months of listening to that my parents asked me if I wanted to take lessons - and thus it began, almost exactly 80 years ago.
I started playing flute first, but my first private teacher on flute was horrible. I thought about trying another instrument to release some pressure. Then, I found violin and quite happy with it.
Basically I was running away from the flute.
I voted "my sibling played, so I wanted to," which is true, but not the whole truth. My oldest (by 12 years) sister was taking violin lessons from a young Alice Joy Lewis who was just getting interested in the Suzuki approach. Fortuitously, I was five years old when Alice Joy persuaded the local music store to carry fractional violins and announced the formation of her first ever Suzuki class. I do recall my mother asking me if I would like to play the violin and my enthusiastic answer of "YES!" due to admiration of my sister, but I am quite certain that I was going to be signed up for that class no matter my response.
The decision to pursue violin performance as a professional was entirely my own and not nearly as enthusiastically supported by my parents, at least at first.
5th grade; I noticed that some were getting out of regular class early to go to the music class. I wanted to do that too. My dad took me to our very small local music store. They had three instruments on the wall; clarinet, trumpet, violin. I blew in the clarinet, nothing happened, the trumpet, nothing. The violin made a sound right away, so I said to myself; "this one works, I'll do this". It wasn't until two years later that I heard a good soloist live, and found a good teacher.
I've told my story so many times but, here it is again. In Jr. High (what they used to call "Middle School" back in the day) the music teacher had a brilliant idea - during the two years of confinement all of us had to attempt to play some notes (a scale would be nice) on every instrument found in an orchestra. It was leveling and quite a learning experience. I learned that I hate the feel of vibrating reeds in my mouth, that the trombone mouthpiece was most comfortable for me, and that I absolutely loved the violin.
My father's reaction was the same as with every request beyond the basics they provided (food, clothing, shelter) "if you can pay for it then you can have/do it" He offered financing at loan-shark rates and practices and I put the idea away for a long time until one day getting some yarn out of the attic for my fairly new Mother-in-law I discovered a violin in the attic. I got it restored, found a teacher that I could resonate with and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
I still love the violin and still play the attic found instrument that had been my Mother-in-law's grandfather's instrument that he brought with him from Sweden and had been part of her life as long as he was alive. It's my "Mitenwald Strad" (Copied from a 1740-something Strad). I've played in community a orchestra, hymn tune melodies in church (my original goal) and by happenstance become a teacher of young aspiring musicians who, like me, cannot afford lessons. I get them grounded and up into third position and then hand them off to other teachers who take them further (and usually provide scholarships).
I still play for myself, my wife and the cats almost daily everything from the standard rep to show tunes, movie themes, and, of course, seasonal hymn tunes. Some day my instrument will, like "Joe's Violin" go into the service of a young aspiring musician but that will have to wait until I simply cannot play it anymore myself.
I am one of the less common "had a violin on hand" responses. There is off course a story behind it though.
In about 1930 my great grand father brought two violins back from a business trip to Europe. No one in the family ever played them and they spent the next 40 years in the closet in New York.
When my grandmother visited in '73 she thought they would look good as art over my father's piano. (I'm not sure how I escaped piano lessons?) After they arrived, with two mostly hairless bows, one bridge and three strings, I was fascinated and wanted to learn to play. After the local luthier said these are not wall-hangers, and I started with lessons, followed by the school strings program.
I still play on both and have one of the bows. Currently using the original luthier shop as well.
I'm not totally clear what got me to want to play violin, but my friend suggested it and I wanted to try. Before I picked up the violin, I had already (and still do) been playing piano for a while. I had been an avid music fan since I was born, and my parents thought music would be a good thing for me to do. One day after several years of violin playing, I was pushed to take up the viola because I got put in a chamber group that lacked a viola player in a program. I could've just played the damn part on 3rd violin but my teacher said it would sound better on a viola so I was pushed into it. I really didn't want to do it at first, and I don't know what the hell I was thinking. The minute I picked up the viola I was in love. Today I play all three instruments about equally and love it!
John Garfield, (actually, Isaac Stern) in the 1947 movie 'Humoresque' with Joan Crawford. Heard the playing and was incurably hooked! That movie still gives me goosebumps (at least the fiddle playing!)
I voted "heard someone play and loved it" but it was a little more complicated than that.
Because my parents worked in the oil industry, I grew up in the Middle East, in a country that had no Western string instruments until the last year before we moved back to the US. The first time I heard a string instrument on anything other than a film soundtrack was shortly after returning to the US at 12, when I went to a symphony concert with a friend's family. I heard the Walton viola concerto and loved it, so immediately wanted to learn the viola. That's the "heard someone play and loved it" part.
But "we had a violin on-hand" is also true to an extent. Even though viola was the instrument I wanted to play, I started on violin because there was an old violin in the family that had belonged to my late great-uncle. He died years before I was born, and no one else in the family had any interest learning it, so it sat on a shelf in my uncle's house for 20 years. My uncle brought the violin the next time he visited. I still have that violin today and play it on the rare occasions I'm asked to play violin.
As it turned out, I switched to the viola quite quickly. I gave up on trying to find a teacher and started self-teaching violin after more than three years of being rejected by teachers who said I was too old, so when I went off to college I was only at the point of starting to get comfortable with third position. Once in college, I was able to get a viola on loan, free of charge, for the entire four years. I almost completely stopped playing the violin within a few months after starting viola, except for one year in which I was pushed to 2nd violin in an orchestra because there were too many violists and not enough violinists.
The violin and viola were actually my fourth and fifth instruments, though. I had piano lessons starting at 5, and had played euphonium and trombone in school bands before starting on strings.
I didn't want to play violin at first. I was playing mandolin and guitar with a female vocalist and another guitarist in a trio around the Folk Clubs in the English Midlands. My friend the guitarist suggested I get a fiddle as it had more kudos than mandolin and we could get more gigs with a fiddle, so I bought one and started to teach myself. I struggled at first, but I persevered and managed to sound half decent after a few months, we did get more gigs, but I don't know if it was the fiddle or the fact that we were more practiced. I've been playing now for 47 years and play in a string quartet, I do solo gigs and I play for dancing. I've played at many folk clubs and festivals in the British Isles, the continent of Europe and even further afield. I count myself very lucky to have led such an enjoyable life of music and song. I've never made much money but I've made enough to keep body and soul together with my singing and fiddle playing, I couldn't have had a more enjoyable time, and, given the opportunity, I would do it all again!
I voted that I had a violin on hand, but like many others commentators, one category from the above list is not the whole truth.
The violin was my dad's from when he had played growing up. I soon got his twin brother's as well. That was a factor--copying my father, but there was more: I found and still find the sound very orgasmic, almost literally, (as I do with sax or piano to a slightly lesser extent). Also,I didn't want to play the same instruments as other boys: trumpet or drums (percussion).
I've never regretted my decision. Like with an incredible spouse, my love grows more with each passing year.
I said my school program offered it, but actually I first read about Pa's fiddle in the "Little House" books, and I wanted to play it. Then I got the opportunity in school.
“I didn’t want to play at first.”
As an over sixty year-old, I decided to attend a community centre course on violin just for the experience of trying it for sixteen weeks.
I hired a violin for three months ended up getting a private teacher instead. At the first lesson she said “I hope you make the violin part of your life.”
And it is seven years later.
My father played violin but as a child I didn't have any desire to learn it. I always liked music, especially the violin and at a certain point- with 59 years to be precisely- I accepted the "challenge" and I began to take lessons.
I voted for “ I heard someone play” as I’m sure that’s true but only part . My mother was an organist and pianist so I knew I was going to learn piano whenever we managed to get one. ( on a farm in the middle of Queensland. )
The seed was planted when we were visiting my grandparents for the first time, in their wonderful old period home, where all of the stories of my mothers childhood came to life, and in my mothers girlhood bedroom, I found a violin. Learning was not a possibility until I went to boarding school at. 12 and badgered them to let me learn. There was a bit of sighing about how I was a bit old to start, and consequently I think no-one, including me, took it quite seriously, compared to my piano playing. I lasted about a year .
1/2 a century on, I saw a VSO in a garage sale, and realised I had unfinished business with this instrument. It’s been nearly 2 years , and It has definitely become part of my life. .
I just wish my mother could see me playing and learn that that year was not wasted.
As others have said, it's a combination of reasons. Over my lifetime I've had the opportunity to play the piano and an assortment of wind instruments (not particularly well but adequately enough to play in the local band) so it could be said that I've loved music for a long time. I started choral singing in college and that has been my focus for the last few decades. While singing one has the opportunity to watch the orchestra and I became intrigued by the violin. It wasn't until I retired and serendipitously acquired my niece's violin (she stopped playing after graduating school) that I started taking violin lessons. It's been a challenge but I'm totally enjoying it.
I was inspired by hearing Andrew Bird. Before him I always thought of the violin as an upper class fancy, boring, no fun instrument. He opened the door for me which led to years of lessons, discovery, and pleasure playing the instrument.
I had a bit of a false start about 61 years ago when I was 9 years old. My mom insisted I play our 4/4 violin although I really wanted to play baseball. So, that didn't really work out. Then, two years ago I was playing guitar and mandolin in a Bluegrass jam when a woman walked in with a fiddle. Up to that point, nobody brought a violin to one of our jams, and it amazed me. I thought, "Violin's and mandolins have the same tuning............how hard can it be?" Well, I'm sure you know the difference. Anyway, that did it. I heard someone play and it hooked me. Of course, it wasn't the first time I'd heard a violin, however, something called to me and I've gone in that direction ever since.
10 seconds before my piano teacher said "I think you'll make a violinist" it had never occured to me to even consider playing a violin.
Those words have stayed with me since I was 8, and have had a powerful influence on my life.
I suddenly started to appreciate classical music a lot, lot more. I had surely listened to Mozart and Beethoven, just like everybody, but as background "classy" music, just like everyone, thinking it was for elders. Not really the kind of music a kid or teenager would listen to, or should.
But as I said, one day I started to really listen to it, it was the first movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony. I had heard it many times, but never really paid attention. That day I got the classical virus, listened for 5 or 6 months to various pieces, got to know Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky violin concertos one day and it was obvious I had to learn how to play the violin. Violinists that impressed me a lot were at that time (well, today the still for sure do): Perlman, Hahn, Zukerman, Vengerov...
I voted one but that is not EXACTLY true, the truth is that I have been a video game player since I was four and when I was nine I heard a beautiful piece of music that made me fall in love with the instrument. I didn’t have the resources to take lessons where I was growing up but when I was in college I took a non major violin class and fell even more in love with the instrument. I love some classical pieces and composures as well but they were not the gateway for me.
I voted “I didn’t want to play at first” because I started on the piano at seven (my choice), and was an average player / a bit of a dilettante - failed my ABRSM grade 5 at 12 years old, and never pursued it further.
When I was ~10, because I was a bit of a geeky kid, I decided I wanted to play at least one instrument from the main orchestral categories, and put that on my “list of things to do before I die”. But Strings was the category that most resonated with me, and in particular I love the way sometimes listening to a violinist playing certain melodies can really tug at my heartstrings and make me feeling like crying (from being touched, rather than from distress, which would be me when I play the violin, lol).
So last year when my first son (then 5 years old) wanted to learn an instrument, I semi-steered him towards a violin rather than a piano, so I would have an excuse to learn the violin too! :-)
A friend moved to house whose electric stove was shot. I gave him ours, since we were in the process of converting to gas. In return, he gave me a cheap violin he had lying around. Since I already played mandolin, I knew where the notes were, and started bringing the violin to bluegrass jams. I soon realized that I needed lessons to really get anywhere, and started getting serious.
Meanwhile, another friend was picking up his violin again after a long layoff, and we started to get together to play chamber pieces (along with my wife, whom he persuaded to take up cello). And the rest is history.
How I got into viola is even more bizarre.
I had a cafe in Hawaii where I would trade meals for live music. A friend brought in a "strolling violinist" one day. He played all kinds of music and I fell in love with that sound.
He fell on hard times and had to pawn his violin. For $75 I got the violin, bow, case and a cake of rosin.
I started playing(age 45) scales and tunes by ear. Then took music theory when I gave up the cafe business to become an engineer.
Now, after 18 years, I still play scales and tunes almost every day, I love busking anywhere I happen to be and I'm the fiddler in a bluegrass/folk/gypsy jazz band.
I love playing more and more every day.
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June 15, 2019 at 06:47 AM · I changed schools at the age of 12 and heard the school orchestra. I was hooked! I just had to learn to play the violin. The school offered free lessons and my aunt gave me her brother's violin, which was far too big, but I managed.