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Ode to an inspiring violin teacher

December 22, 2012 at 11:59 PM

I started learning the violin at the age of 32, mainly because my family is living in UK for a stint and I was feeling restless being a full time mum to 2 toddlers. Finding my violin teacher was a rather serendipitous event as I initially booked a trial lesson with her for my 4-year-old. But since the tot did not even want to have a go at holding the bow, much less touch the violin, I decided to have a go at it myself.

The first 6 months of lessons were conducted with a feisty 2-year-old weaving between our legs as I struggled to play the simplest of tunes in tune. (I supposed my teacher and I both heaved a sigh of relieve when she started nursery). As I practised at home, I was constantly facing the battle of mind over body. Much as I'd like to practise for hours, I found that my muscles didn't allow me to play for more than 20 minutes before protesting. Still, I was mesmerized by the whole new world of classical and contemporary string pieces that I have access and is exposed to thanks to Youtube. It also helped that my violin teacher literally has a bottomless supply of violin scores stored in her home library. I am always amazed that when I mention a new song that I heard on Youtube, she will pull out a drawer and brandish the piece in front of my nose. And so it goes that week after week, she pushes me with scores that are of increasing complexity and drills me with bowing techniques and scales.

Exactly 1 year ago, I sat for my ABRSM Grade 4 exam. 6 months ago, I completed my Grade 6. Fast forward to 18 months after I started learning the violin, I was facing a dilemma. I was hoping to do Grade 8 in April 2013 before heading back to my home country, but was forced to take an exam in the winter term after finding out that I'm expecting another child in March 2013. So the story goes that I wanted to do Grade 7 and be done with it, but my teacher kept egging me on to go for it and do Grade 8 instead. (The main reason being that we couldn't settle on 3 pieces that we liked for Grade 7!) Feeling less than confidant, I decided to give it a try. I thought I had nothing to lose anyway, save for a GBP 79 donation to the Royal Academy. Hence started 3 months of self-imposed grilling, using all my free time (which basically comprises of the 1 to 2 hours between the 2 school runs which I now have to do for 2 kids in different schools) to drill on scales and pieces. Still, I loved every minute of it, seeing my imperfections turn into semi-perfections. 4 days before D-day, as my accompanist and I were presenting Schumann's Fantasiestucke before my teacher, she suggested that we take a risk and make the "schnellens" towards the end even more "schnellen". And it was a risk that paid off. 3 months ago, I think nobody would have believed that I can pass Grade 8, not even myself. But when the results were released this week, I couldn't believe that I got a merit.

This story really isn't just about me and my little journey in learning the violin, but it is dedicated to all the violin teachers out there, especially to mine. For she has inspired me and motivated me to strive beyond what I thought I am capable of, and her passion and love for music just diffused into me, making my mundane existence in a foreign country so much more enriching. Thanks for believing in me. This one's for you -- Jane.

From Christina C.
Posted on December 23, 2012 at 3:56 AM
speaking of a bottomless supply of music, do you know about IMSLP? The International Sheet Music Library Project is a site that offers the sheet music (scores & often parts) of thousands of pieces in the public domain.


ps- welcome to the madness!

From Christina C.
Posted on December 23, 2012 at 4:02 AM
also, one of the best things about playing the violin is getting to play with others. The sooner you get to do it, the better. I don't know where in the UK you are located, but there are a few great organizations that welcome and encourage less-advanced players.
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on December 29, 2012 at 6:44 AM
Congratulations! You, yourself are an inspiration. That's an accomplishment I can't imagine coming close to. And Christine is right--it is a great pleasure to play music with others. Best wishes for your future.

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