her Facebook page. "Didn’t touch the violin, for lots of different reasons, all of them valid."This week violinist Hilary Hahn revealed something that really made me think: "Between September 2019 and December 2020, I took a total of a year off from practicing," she wrote Monday on
To put this in context, Hilary had just finished a 100-day practice challenge, a very public endeavor in which she posted tips and excerpts from her practice every day and also encouraged others to join her in the challenge. She said, "I had a unique goal: to build back to touring shape from a starting point that was far from it."
Before Monday, she had not stated publicly that she had taken a hiatus from violin practice, although she had been on a sabbatical from performing during that time. She added that "I don’t advise taking long periods of time away from the instrument without a very good reason and a solid plan for returning; it’s really risky." She said that in the past, she had "taken enough time away from the violin during planned and unplanned breaks, with therapeutic supervision during my rebuilding phases, that I know exactly how to restart without injuring myself."
Of course, few people have spent the sheer amount of time practicing and performing as Hilary has during her long and devoted career, which started in childhood. It really is inspiring and informative to see the videos that document her "100 Days of Practice" and return to the instrument on her Instagram account, and to read her comments. They vividly portray the fact that daily devotion is not easy, that violin technique takes immense patience and persistence, and that the need for things like slow practice, correction, repetition -- never ends.
But one does not have to be a famous soloist to need (or want) the occasional time off from the instrument. Hilary did not state her reasons and I won't guess, but a serious musician (professional or amateur) might need time off because of things like injury, family obligations, burnout, the need for time to pursue other interests, education, other work, etc. And after taking that time off, it's important to "build back" in a thoughtful and consistent way, as Hilary mentions, to avoid injury.
Personally, I've not taken more than a few months where I "haven't touched" the violin (like when I had my kids!) - but I've certainly had periods of greater and lesser intensity in my practice. I have taught a number of adults who were coming back to the instrument after a multi-decade hiatus, and it's always a thrill to see them renew their devotion to practice and grow their skills. Depending on how much they played before and their consistency of practice, those skills can really come back and flourish.
What is your situation? Have you ever taken time completely off from the violin? How long was that period of time? What was the reason? Did you have any trouble getting back to the instrument? Please participate in the vote, and then share your thoughts in the comments.
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