My new baby

May 9, 2008, 2:21 PM ·


Choosing a new violin is like touring an orphanage while trying to decide which child gets to go home with you and which ones have to stay. Each fiddle is so unique, with individual perfections and flaws, and demands unbiased and careful appraisal. How is it possible to guiltlessly judge an instrument on appearance, tone color, playability and comfort in the allotted 10-day trial period?

Not to mention the pouting and sulking coming from my current fiddle of nearly 13 years. She is, after all, one of my oldest and dearest friends. We've been together through hours of Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart, summer camps, wedding gigs and too-long orchestra rehearsals. My sweet friend - purchased at a garage sale for $20. Because of our history together, a piece of my heart and soul is inextricably connected to her (in a non-Horcrux kind of way). How is it that touching another fingerboard and laying my cheek in a new chinrest can make me feel so unfaithful?

Is this how all friendships must inevitably end? One person simply "outgrows" the other and they both move on? How can I say with a clear conscience, "Well, she just wasn't meeting my needs anymore" and find something better?

And yet, it was a necessary change. Upon deep contemplation, I came to realize that were it not for my loyal friend of 13 years, I would never have been prepared, or mature enough, to accept this new instrument. She helped groom me into being the kind of player who could appreciate this new opportunity for growth as a violinist. She was not holding me back in my playing, she was giving me wings so I could learn to fly without her! Her place in my memory will always be one of high-esteem and honor.

I think relationships are sometimes like this: many leave lasting impressions and carve deep emotional impact, regardless of time and space or perceived "value." Their influence can be traced across all areas of life because we became more beautiful human beings under their care - and with that beautification comes the ability to blossom in the hands of others.

The new violin and I will have to take some time getting to know one another. I'm not even sure if it's a "he" or a "she" yet! The story of our meeting is quite miraculous, actually. It was born in 1891, to a maker named I. Zeitz and spent some time behind the wall in post-WWII East Germany. It was recently liberated and restored in New York City, after which it found its way into my hands. I was initially attracted to the double perfling and burled maple back but later found the tone to be quite deep and fulfilling. The opportunity came, the price could be paid, and here we are, experiencing a whole new phase of awkwardness together.


May 10, 2008 at 03:08 AM · Looks beautiful.

May 10, 2008 at 03:13 PM · Don't know how it sounds, but it looks like a delicious cup of cappucino.

May 10, 2008 at 09:07 PM · It's beautiful...I wish I could get a violin like that. Someday maybe.

May 10, 2008 at 10:13 PM · Congratulations! I can't wait to hear it!

May 11, 2008 at 02:21 AM · Congratulations on your beautiful new violin - looks lovely! Hope you have a great time getting to know him (or her...)

May 11, 2008 at 08:38 PM · Aww, what wonderful, touching story. Both sad and sweet. Good luck to you on the transition.

May 11, 2008 at 11:54 PM · I really like the way you've made peace with saying goodbye to your old violin and moving on to the new. I'm still in the middle of a similar dilemma. I still have my old faithful (inexpensive factory) violin, and I still play it. I'm sentimentally (and financially) attached to it even though musically I'm ready for an upgrade. I think the first step will be finding a place for the emotional attachment, then the finances will more easily follow. Thanks for telling your story.

May 12, 2008 at 03:49 AM · I'm still getting to know "Hilda" better, even though she and I have been together for 2 years now. The "Old Man" is in a semi-retirement. He gets out and about when I make trips to China, or one of my violinist viola-playing friends comes over for a viola duet.

Have fun getting to know the new instrument in your life! I'm sure you will have a wonderful journey.

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