Printer-friendly version
The Weekend Vote weekend vote: The decision to play the violin

August 17, 2007 at 5:00 PM

Who was it that made that very first decision about whether or not your would play the violin? Was it you? Was it a parent? Was it a requirement at your school?

Let's find out!

From Albert Justice
Posted on August 17, 2007 at 5:42 PM
No, violin chose me... I just wanted guitar strings that day! ;). I can't even jump on the Robert Frost bandwagon on this. Dang. Though it has, made all the difference.

Someone wrote recently about Discovery--Yixi maybe. I find myself evoking the Gods wanting more and more people to discover. Then I realize I'm sounding like an evangelist and shut up.

Nonetheless, it's still my secret prayer for my family, friends and region. Well, I guess not so secret now..

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on August 17, 2007 at 6:19 PM
My parents basically gave me a violin for my fifth birthday and I started taking lessons soon after. I was so young that it was pretty much their decision. However, my older sister had played violin for a few years, and I probably asked to learn the violin after watching her do it.
From Jessie Vallejo
Posted on August 17, 2007 at 6:28 PM
I decided to play violin because I wanted to play the smallest instrument that I didn't have to blow in (I was pretty tiny at 10/11 and and could barely blow up a balloon!!)
My mother said no because the budget was tight and I threw the biggest temper tantrum of my life to get my parents to change their mind.
From Kelsey Z.
Posted on August 17, 2007 at 6:54 PM
My siblings all played piano and so did my Dad and I hated the piano (then). So I decided I wanted a violin. It didn't go over so well at first but after a few years I finally got one and the rest is history! Hello university violin performance!!!
From Richard Hellinger
Posted on August 17, 2007 at 8:58 PM
My Older Cousin (now a Professional violinist) always brought her violin over when ever she would visit (from Virginia). And I would "play it" and when she played I was mesmerized... That was when I made my decision..
From Patricia Baser
Posted on August 17, 2007 at 11:43 PM
When it came time to choose an instrument, I thought I wanted to play the clarinet (because my best friend played the clarinet). My dad talked me into the violin because he wanted a fiddle player. After getting a masters degree in violin performance and many years of freelancing, I returned to school for my teaching certificate where I finally had to play the clarinet as part of my woodwinds course. I now know that I might just be the WORST clarinet player ever!
From Corwin Slack
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 2:23 AM
For most of my childhood my parents did not even have a record player. They did have some records and one day my father brought home a record player from work. (He was a librarian.) We played records for a few days including a children's series on musical instruments that featured a boy named Sparky who tries out various instruments. When he played the violin I knew it was my instrument instantly. I did hear a few solo performances by amateurs during my childhood and remained entranced. When I was in the fourth grade, a string quartet from the symphony orchestra in twon vam to our school. The first violinist asked for a volunterr and chose one of my friends who insisted on holding the violin with his left hand. I was so upset that I wasn't chosen. I knew it was held in the left hand. I was watching them play.

I finally got to start in the fisth grade and I have played almost without break for over 40 years.

Strangely I don't recall the quality of any of those performances I heard as a child which, in retrospect, may have been an indicator that I was doomed to be an amateur forever.

From P.H Brackenbury
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 2:40 AM
I wanted to play violin in 3rd grade, my mother vetoed it and I was stuck on the flute. I started this summer and I love it.
From Tara Shaw
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 3:24 AM
The first time around, I, too, was one who begged my parents to let me play the violin. My inspiration, if I remember correctly, was Charlie Daniels and "Devil Went Down to Georgia." So I started in the 5th grade and played into college.

The second time around (at age 36), as Albert put it, the violin chose me.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 4:44 AM
I'm with Albert -- violin chose me too.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 5:33 AM
I have the perspective of a violin teacher. When the kid decides to play the violin and fights for it, if necessary, he/she generally sticks with the violin. On the other hand, if the parents decide that their kid will play violin, the kid is less likely to pursue it. There are exceptions, of course. I have one 9 year old student whose mother decided 4 years ago that he'd take violin lessons because that was the only activity available to fill a hole in his schedule. He says now that he is so grateful for it.
From Eric Godfrey
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 6:14 AM
I had started piano around age 5. My mother was a cellist, also taught piano. Having heard chamber music in the home from an early age, I was always interested in strings. But my mother's cello looked so enormous to little me - it was bigger than I was, so how could I possibly play it? I picked the violin, much more manageable, and started around age 8. The piano soon went by the wayside - it is hard enough to get a child to practice one instrument every day, let alone two!
From Ben Clapton
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 7:35 AM
The violin was the first instrument I could get my hands on. In a sense, it was the school that offered it to me, but I probably would've accepted the oboe if they'd offered it to me instead of the violin
From Deborah McCann
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 12:23 PM
I really wanted to play the harp or cello, but got to thinking that getting these to school when I had to walk about 2 miles would be too much. I was never sorry I started with the violin.
From John Baker
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 12:36 PM
I started piano at age 8, Trumpet at 12. Then in college I had my formal introduction to the Violin in Class Violin for Music Ed majors. (I was secretly hooked!) Later I bought a Viola and was a closet String player for a long time. About six years ago I began attending Chamber recitals mostly by Baltimore Symphony members and listening to recordings of great Violinists, Josef Suk being one of them. I decided to give up the Trumpet for a Musical Instrument! (But I still get calls to play it!)
From Liana Goldsmith
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 1:18 PM
I started playing at age three, so I'm quite sure it was my mom who chose the violin for me. However, there have been many forks in the road along the way where I have gone the way of the violin myself. Most recently, however, I feel the violin pulling me to play! It's quite an extraordinary journey =D
From Richard Conviser
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 2:16 PM
Although he was a pianist, my father detested the tempered scale, and in the last decade of his life, he got a patent on a just intonation electronic keyboard. He would not allow any of his sons to play the piano because he did not want to ruin our sense of pitch. (See Ross Duffin's recent book, How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony [and Why You Should Care].) Since my oldest brother already played the viola, and the next, cello, it was foreordained that I should play the violin. Interestingly, I'm the only one who has kept up with it. And my violin teaching focuses particularly on awareness of muscle movement to promote perfect pitch.
From Peter Kent
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 3:50 PM
Your statistical vote chart would seem to indicate that schools had little to do with one's decision to play violin, and therefore are an uneffective stimulus to musical education. Also, perhaps there is a smidge of ego involved with claiming it was YOU that decided your fate. While not attempting to belittle the survey as it has already spawned some interesting revelations, certainly, unless one came from the most permissive of home environments, parents acknowledged and funded the pact YOU developed.....or then again, perhaps you never began playing until your were self sufficient and away from strong parental influence.
From Jennifer Greenlee
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 4:00 PM
Interestingly enough, today is the 30th anniversary of my first violin lesson! I come from two musical families--my dad was the only wind player in his family of string players, and my mom was one of many wind players. So when I announced that I wanted to play violin, they readily made arrangements for my first lessons. I loved it, and did well, but I hated to practice. When I was about 11, my grandfather, who bought the violin I was playing, threatened to sell it because I wasn't practicing. At that moment I knew that I loved it too much ever to not play. I can't say that I was diligent in my practicing ever after, but they never threatened to take it away from me again.
From Betsy Taylor
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 5:44 PM
After hearing a brother-sister violin duets concert at Silliman University, I wanted to play the violin. I studied with their brother Zoe Lopez at Silliman, starting at the age of 9.
From Corwin Slack
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 10:23 PM
Peter, that would be going too far. While I made the decision, the catalyst for realizing the decision was the availability of a school program. Had I not brought home a sign up sheet at the opportune moment, the violin may have been just a long ago yearning.
From Lynne Krueger
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 11:02 PM
I was introduced to the violin in grade school when the school violin teacher was recruiting. He came into my homeroom and played a short piece on the violin, then asked who would be interested in learning to play. I was very excited and raised my hand.

Next, he took his 8 or 10 recruits to a small room, played Twinkle, Twinkle for them, then had each child in turn, attempt to play what he had just played. Those who were able to imitate him (that included me), were allowed in his violin class.

The rest of the story goes like this: When I got home that day and eagerly told my mother that I was going to learn to play the violin, I learned for the first time, that my father played the violin. It seems that several years earlier (when I was too young to remember), one of my older siblings had knocked his violin off the piano and broke it, and my father had retired it to the attic. Of course, once he heard about my new ambition, he retrieve it from the attic, glued it back together, and I suddenly had my very own violin to start out on.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on August 18, 2007 at 11:56 PM
What interesting responses!

As for me, I had to do a bit of begging. I saw a friend play a little performance at school, then I asked if I could play. My mother said, "No, honey, you're going to play the piano." "But we don't have a piano," I pointed out. "Hmmmm," she said, and I started violin at school a few weeks later. As a parent, I introduced both of my children to the violin. They both rejected it! I felt a lot of pressure to "keep them playing, YOU are the parent after all!" but now my daughter plays guitar and son plays piano.

Actually, I think my studio reflects the percentages in this poll, as far as the number of kids who asked their parents for lessons, and the number of parents who provided violin lessons simply as something they wanted their children to have. It certainly can work either way, as long as, at some point, the student takes ownership.

From Sister Mary Elizabeth
Posted on August 19, 2007 at 1:27 AM
In the spring of our third grade year, we were taken down to the school gym to view a display of the band and orchestra instruments we could sign up to study. Not yet appreciating the beauty of inner parts, I wanted to play a melody instrument. Flute and clarinet looked much too complicated--I didn't think I would remember how all those keys worked. The violin had only four strings--I figured I could handle that.
From Mara Gerety
Posted on August 19, 2007 at 2:22 AM
I started when I was 3, and I can't say it was either entirely my parents' decision or entirely mine. Frankly, at that point I think I wanted to be a conductor: I used to arrange all my stuffed animals on the floor, put on a recording of Handel's "Messiah", and proceed to stand commandingly in front of them and wave my arms more or less in time. I also had a picture of the local community orchestra's conductor (who, for some reason, I was convinced was Leonard Bernstein) in my room.

Essentially, I wanted to play anything, or more likely, I wanted to play everything. The violin was the only thing that came small enough, so there I was. Nowadays sometimes, in a fit of frustration, I look at my violin and, like Enescu, find myself muttering "You are too small, my friend, much too small." Give me the Lisztian majesty of the piano, with which to storm the heights of Parnassus! Better yet, make me a composer, creator of worlds!

From Mara Gerety
Posted on August 19, 2007 at 2:43 AM
...and then there are times where I look at what I just wrote and mutter ruefully to myself, "Oh my Lord..."
From Anne Horvath
Posted on August 19, 2007 at 4:48 PM
All of my students asked to play the violin. Because I teach traditional style with note reading, my beginning students tend to be in the early-mid elementary range. Maybe that age is old enough to ask/beg for a violin.

I started on piano at age 6. I had been begging since I was about 3. My big brother was already taking lessons. My Mom plays piano, quite well but not professionally. Mom made me wait until I was 6, and that was probably a great decision for me. So we were a piano family!

I switched to violin when I was 10. There were string classes in my school, and I was very interested. My parents informed me that I could do EITHER piano or violin, but not both. So I picked violin, with no regrets, ever. I did the violin class at school, and private lessons too.

From Eileen Geriak
Posted on August 19, 2007 at 6:49 PM
I guess the violin chose me...I had a very nice old fella dropped in my lap about 5 years ago....I haven't stopped playing it since.
From NeaL Brooks
Posted on August 20, 2007 at 12:12 AM
My mom played piano and the older of my two older sisters played violin. When my younger sister and I were told that it was time for us to select an instrument to learn, it was emphasised that since there was already a pianist and violinist in the family, us two younger ones would have the advantage of access to someone more experienced to help us learn. It was also pointed out that it would be more economical since there was already a piano and several sizes of violin in the house.

My sister spoke up first for piano. I felt that my only choice was violin.

I had to go to violin lessons immediately after school which meant that I had to bring the instrument to class. The fact that I was picked-on because of the instrument didn't help endear me to the violin.

From Clare Chu
Posted on August 20, 2007 at 5:55 AM
I was a small 6 year old who got skipped to 2nd grade where I had a teacher from Italy. She had an old 1/4 size violin and put me in the school violin program because I was bored in class and they could not skip me another grade. My parents had no idea about musical instruments, but after I was already playing violin, they started all my younger siblings on instruments too.
From Tracy Lynch
Posted on August 20, 2007 at 9:14 AM
I first heard Witches Dance from Suzuki Book 2 played by my school teachers daughter, thought it was so amazing and little did I know that mum and dad had signed me up already to learn from her teacher the following week. My class teacher had sugested to my parents in an interview that she thought I would be great at music. I was showing talent on the recorder as all 5 year olds do!!!
From Laura Adams
Posted on August 20, 2007 at 1:06 PM
I was six years old - saw this lady playing violin at my church. My parents said I just sat in the front row and stared the entire time. So they took me up to meet her, and because I asked - they signed me up for lessons and here I am today.
From Barbara Merrell
Posted on August 20, 2007 at 5:25 PM
I was in 6th grade and actually my first choice as the district started an orchestra program for the first time was violin - I was talked into playing viola. I had a 14" for years - when the district added a 2nd high school, I was a sophomore and we had 3x more violas than violins and I was at a point to get a larger viola - instead got a violin - still play but also teach violin and viola - recently at a music camp got to play viola in a string quartet - great fun.
From Jami Geimer
Posted on August 20, 2007 at 6:56 PM
My 2nd grade class took a field trip to a concert given by the local university symphony orchestra, and my mom had signed up to be a chaperone. I had asked to play violin after seeing Perlman on Sesame Street several times and she'd brushed it off, but apparently I started begging after seeing the orchestra. And didn't stop begging until I had my first lessons 2 years later. I've now been playing for 20 years (although I haven't played much for the last 5), spent 3 years in college as a music ed student and recently made the decision to go back and complete my degree with an emphasis in strings pedagogy.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine