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Karen Allendoerfer

TRFC II: The Blog I Meant to Write in January

April 2, 2011 at 10:46 PM

I'm looking at the window at the last remnant of the April Fool's snow.  Back in January it was still snowing hard, all the time, and I was still working on the Rockin' Fiddle Challenge.  The challenge ended just after the MLK weekend.  I went skiing that weekend, and I meant to blog about it soon after, as soon as the results were announced.  Then the results were announced and I meant to blog right after.  But somehow soon stretched into days, which stretched into weeks, and months.  And now it's April.  There's still snow on the ground, but only a few patches.  The crocuses are blooming, and the daffodils and tulips are coming up.

So, what happened?  I tried to learn a piece that was far out of my comfort zone, but which looked like a lot of fun when played by a master.  I attempted a new style--fiddle--something that I'd always liked to listen to but never really played much.  There were many entrants to the contest at the beginning, but not many who made it all the way through the entire piece.  In fact, the first, and for a long time only, player to make it through did so early on, and with such grace that it seemed like the contest had been won already after a month.  While this entrant was posting his tour-de-force, I was on ~measure 27, halfway through the first page (of 5), and the 16th note double stops hadn't even started yet for me.  

As I look back at the blogs that I wrote while I was working on the challenge (Learning to Rock, Letting it All Hang Out, Sweet Child of Mine) they seem to start with sentiments such as "What am I getting myself into?"  Of course that was something of a rhetorical device--I mean, I couldn't plausibly say that I was entering the contest in hopes of winning it, so I needed some kind of introduction.  At least it wasn't quite "Middle-aged suburban soccer mom attempts to play Axl Rose on the violin, injures self, others." 

So, I wasn't surprised that the piece was too hard for me.  But I was very pleasantly surprised at how supportive everyone was when I told them about it or even when I played something from it.  From the beginning, Adam DeGraff, who was running the challenge, had constructive, insightful, individual comments for anyone who posted an entry, no matter what his or her level of skill.  And, after one of my early blogs back in July, fellow v.commer Ron Mutchnik sent me a link to this video, with some very practical help on the fingered octaves:

I'd been learning it section by section, and right before I went skiing, I made it (shakily) through the entire piece, from beginning to end, and posted it.  My version was a couple of minutes longer than Adam's, due to my *ahem* preference for a slower tempo, but it was all there.  A few hours later, none other than that first guy to make it through, who'd been my Rockin' Fiddle hero for the past 6 months, posted a comment, "nice job."  Then another entrant friended me on Facebook.  I take to heart Laurie's warnings about YouTube, and usually I do filter the comments on the things I post there, but here I didn't, and I didn't need to.

The finalists were announced about a week later.  By the end of the contest, about 9 people had posted a full version.  Five finalists were chosen.  I was not one of those, but I won a most improved award, which is a Dueling Fiddlers' CD.  The eventual winner of the challenge was Amy Lidell, my new facebook friend, who also dressed up in some bling for the final entry.  Amy rocks, and so does everyone else who participated in the challenge!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 11:57 AM

Thanks for updating us and congratulations on how well you did!  You are an inspiration to all of us thinking about trying stuff we think is way outside our comfort zone.  Keep trying and let us know how it goes.  You should give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 12:37 PM

 Hi Tom, glad you're back from Europe!  I've been really swamped at work for what seems like way too long, and need a vacation too.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on April 4, 2011 at 2:39 AM

Isn't pushing the 'comfort zone' fun and rewarding?  There is a certain satisfaction from taking the 'impossible' into the realms of 'this may be possible after all',  not to mention the thrill of ::::gulp:::: hitting the 'submit' button. 

I'm so happy that you took on the challenge and must say I'm proud of what you accomplished.  We 40-somethings can learn new tricks!


From Terez Mertes
Posted on April 4, 2011 at 5:19 PM

 Enjoyed reading the 'final chapter' of your Rockin' Fiddle journey. Congrats on the award!

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 5:08 AM

Congratulations, Karen!  It takes guts to do something like that.  You must have been interested in fiddle already to even start.  Do you feel more comfortable at it now?

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Thanks, guys!  When I restarted violin a few years ago, confidence was definitely an issue. But this has been a good year for confidence in general.  First I had the classical solo, then I had this, in a totally different style.  For our spring concert in orchestra we're playing the Russian Easter Overture, which has some little violin solos in it, and they're not bothering me or causing me nearly the anxiety they would have done a year ago.  In fact, at the last rehearsal, I was taking one of the solos kind of leisurely, with more rubato than the conductor wanted, just because I liked the way it sounded and wanted to savor the moment, and he had to tell me to move it along so the woodwinds didn't run out of air while I was playing.  It used to be, I would be anxious and rush through something like that just to try to get it over with.  So I think the benefits in one area carry over to other areas of playing and performing!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 12:46 PM

I say, you are the main event.  Let the woodwinds expire in a soggy mess!

From Christina C.
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 2:44 PM

Argh! My comment yesterday never went through...

Great post. To me this is the internet at its best- people with a common passion/interest/curiosity from all over the world of all levels can come together in an online community and share their enthusiasm, give advice, seek support and encourage others.

Congratulations on most improved! It seems as though you've taken up quite a few challenges of the if-it-doesn't-kill-ya-it'll-make-youonger variety and... well... you're still here to blog about it. I don't think there's any doubt that you've become a better player & you should be pleased with yourself.

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