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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: What's your scary nightmare?

November 1, 2008 at 6:41 AM

What scares you?

All this Halloween day long, I haven't felt terribly scared. Halloween is a U.S. holiday where kids dress up and troll the neighborhood at night for candy and a good scare.

I made chili and cornbread, helped 20 third graders decorate tiny pumpkins and make caramel apples. I helped my kids assemble their costumes: Indiana Jones for the boy and something like this for the girl. We walked the neighborhood, which included some gruesome displays: tombstones with skeletons emerging beneath; giant, glowing purple spiders crawling up walls, and by far the worst: a house with BOTH McCain and Obama signs in their yard, and with both presidential candidates standing right out front, giving candy. (Also they were giving Irish whiskey and white wine to parents, but I didn't partake.)

Are you scared yet?


So I thought I would make up a list of scenarios that VIOLINISTS would find scary. You can enhance these, too, in the comment section below. Use your imagination, that's important for fear. What would be THE most scary violin situation you can devise?

From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 9:10 AM
Usually, my violin nightmares revolve around teaching lessons, and usually I have some sort of scheduling problem, like more than one student showing up at the same time. Then I can't ever seem to get around to teaching the lesson. I'm always relieved when I wake up.

Most performing nightmares involve not being able to find my violin, or the stage. But usually when I actually play in my dreams, I can play better than real life.

From Alison S
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 12:35 PM
Sightreading R Strauss.

My own permanent nightmare is getting poked in the eye by someone else's bow. That's why I always wear my specs when playing in a group, even though I don't really need them to read the music. Plus they give the feeling of hiding behind something, thus offering some psychological protection.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 1:52 PM
Breaking the good bow. Bleh.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 2:58 PM
I'm always afraid that a sting, especially the E will break and punch me in my face while I play ,but I have never seen this anywhere!!! Also playing awfully in an exam is very scary! Also the worst things (little things) I experienced is (while my allergy period) having to stop in the middle of a performance in a concert to ... get a kleenex and one time my pad moved in a concert and the metal thing was hurting very much my neck all through. (but it is not catastrophic things) It is no near as terrible as getting your violin stolen etc.
From Paul G.
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 3:03 PM
I put busking, because I've done all the other things, but never done it. I don't think having to replace a soloist right before a concert is a bad thing, I've done it three times and quite enjoyed it. Even if they were easy songs.. (In The Fadiing Light Of Autumn; "Going home" from the New World Symphony by Dvorak)...

It was one we switched out for festival with Bachanale...
I fore some reason can't remember the name. It was full orchestra and had lots of crazy percussion... Can't believe I don't remember.

But the hardest one to play out of all those was In The Fading Light of Autumn because the violin solo was the first thing that introduced the song.

From Dimitri Musafia
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 3:30 PM
I really don't have to use my imagination for this one! I haven't played professionally for years, however even now I still have occasionally this same nightmare:

I'm up on stage, having to play chamber music, and I haven't rehearsed the part. In fact, I haven't even SEEN it before.

We sit down as the applause dies out, the audience in waiting. I pick up the violin and get ready to play. I stare at the score - it's easy to the point of being elementary, a largo senza moto with a lot of whole notes, no sharps nor flats - but I just don't get it.

I fumble and fake, trying to make sense of the music as my companions play ahead. I'm panicked and terrorized, and I don't know what to do; the next movement is an Allegro, and it's approaching...

I finally wake up in my bed in a cold sweat, relieved that it was just a dream, um, a nightmare.

The first time I had this dream I was in the picturesque Hotel Post in Mittenwald (Bavaria), and I think the hotel maitre played some kind of trick on us because we were brought wayyyyy to much food to eat. Goulaschsuppe and winener schnitzel, to be precise. I did my part and the waiter was impressed. But, later that night, in my dreams, all that food came back to haunt me in the form of this nightmare, returning even now, 22 years later.

I guess that was REALLY a lot wiener schnitzel!

From Tommy Atkinson
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 3:46 PM
I actually had a really bad violin dream the other night:

I was late to an orchestra concert and had to run in the back door and get out my violin and tune up really quickly. When I opened my case, ALL of my strings were unraveling and rusting, for some reason, and I didn't have any spares.


From Nicole Stacy
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 3:59 PM
I've had dreams about dropping the violin and seeing it in pieces. But I had a real nightmare as an undergrad: someone double-booked the hall for my senior recital (preceded by months of frustration, but that's a long story).

Sightreading R. Strauss is definitely up there. Especially with a conductor who knows this, and nevertheless decides it is the perfect time to pick on the violins (another true story!).

From Joy Laydbak
Posted on November 1, 2008 at 7:42 PM
Mine's really simple, much more simple than most of those. My fear is that you open up the case and there's a giant crack across the violin. Suddenly,your cherished baby is destroyed, you out a thousand dollars (or thousands).
From Michael Divino
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 12:28 AM
combination of all?

From Claudel Chouinard
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 1:10 AM
Two Words: Stage Fright. And, of course, what goes with it: stiff left hand, bouncing bow, flimsy sound, etc.
Been there, done that, and it's scary.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 1:24 AM
I used to have and occasionally play a beautiful beetle-back mandolin, with inlay of mother-of-pearl in appropriate places. My grandmother had brought it with her when she came to the U.S. from the "old country." One day, I opened the case, and it was filled with tiny fragments of shattered wood. There was no way to glue them together. I cried and cried. I was married at the time, and my ex went bonkers whenever I cried, so I had to go into the bathroom and run the water really loud so I could cry. To this day I wonder how it happened, and I've discussed the issue with many people. The best theory was that bugs ate the glue that held it together. (There were several pieces of rounded wood glued together on the back of the instrument.) After that, I developed a fear of opening my violin case, especially if I hadn't practiced for a while. I made me ex open the violin case and tell me whether it was intact before I even approached it.
From Elizabeth Musil
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 11:56 AM
As a beginner, I can't say that I'll have to worry about any of the things that Laurie listed for quite awhile, but at the moment mine is playing in front of anyone at all. I'm 23, and I just know that when people see me they expect someone of my age to be able to play well, and not to hear random squeaks and who knows what else that occur when I play, which aren't actually all my fault as all I have to play on is a VSO. Afterall, most people start when they are much younger. I even have trouble during lessons, during which my bow will bounce uncontrollably and my teacher leaves me alone for several minutes so I can warm-up until the bouncing stops.

The worst experience I've had so far was when my teacher was gone for a month on tour with her orchestra in Japan, and a new colleague of hers at the music school filled in. I was really nervous before the lesson, then I get there and find that the teacher is a rather large and intimidating, rough-looking and rough-speaking Ukranian guy who has trouble communicating and speaking in German (I'm in Germany). Throughout the lesson he was rather hands-on instead of communicating with words - grabbing the scroll of my violin and shoving it upwards, grabbing my bow arm and pulling it roughly downwards making it impossible for me to draw it straight across the strings and creating a rather horrible screetch, or grabbing my violin to demonstrate without any warning and without asking. Throughout the lesson he kept asking me, "Warum bist du so ängstlich?" "Why are you so nervous?" Hmmm...I wonder. It was with much trepidation and something close to dread that I went to the next lesson, but thankfully the teacher completely changed tactics, and that lesson, as well as the others until my regular teacher returned, went quite well. Actually, I'm almost quite glad that I had this teacher, because now when I play in front of anyone I can tell myself - it can't be as bad as the first lesson with Albert the Ukranian.

From Mara Gerety
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 2:11 PM
My conductor DOES stop rehearsals about 100 times in 2 1/2 hours....and I've had some pretty freaky dreams about sightreading the Brahms concerto for an eagerly-listening Kreisler and Heifetz (or, my most vivid one, being backstage at the Berlin Philharmonic ten minutes before my big break and realizing I haven't learned the third movement yet) but my worst nightmares always just involve my violin breaking somehow. I still remember a very vivid nightmare I had when I was 5 in which my bow snapped all by itself...lately though when I have those nightmares the worst feature is the very vivid sound effects my brain comes up with.....UGH!!!
From Michael Makhal
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 2:45 PM
My one is not in the list though I also had a great trouble for my pianist missing the event. I really had a nightmare when I travailed 30 km to perform and found that I did not bring my scores. It was impossible to back home and get them, so I had to play by-heard. The fun was, I can play by-heard for half an hour or one but not for two and half hours, so I had to play an ex-tempo. I asked my pianist to give me some pattern and keep yourself within four to five relative chords and then I started improvising and managed the event. The truth is I loved that show and since then I do improvising performances in my every shows. It feels great, try that, you will love it and will feel like a maestro. Cheers !!
From Jerald Archer
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 4:18 PM
In the midst of a public recital, a rather large spider emerges from one's f-hole at the most inconvient moment. It comes from living in highly wooded areas and leaving you violin out all the time. Why could it not have just stayed in there for a little while longer, and not stole the show away from me? Must have been a critic. I am not fearful of arachnids, but one could imagine what could entail if one was...they are very fast.
From Natasha Marsalli
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 7:52 PM
I always have nightmares about running late for competitions...oversleeping the alarm, etc., as well as the one where my violin/bow breaks suddenly. Perhaps the worst so far was running to a competition that I was late for, falling down a flight of stairs and landing on my violin, shattering it. Ugh.
From Martin Seitz
Posted on November 2, 2008 at 8:08 PM
Once i had a dream that i had to appear at a concert. Problem was that i have partly eaten my violin.

but a real nightmare would be to fall over and smash your violin - on the stage in front of the audience

From Mazz Swift-Camlet
Posted on November 3, 2008 at 6:09 AM

That article about the Australian Nat'l Academy of Music losing funding scares the living daylights out of me!

From Kelsey Z.
Posted on November 3, 2008 at 6:18 AM

One of my scariest nightmares actually did come true once!

My biggest audition to date - I don't sleep a wink of sleep the night before (because my sister was sick and up coughing the entire night), I arrive an hour or so early to warm up and rehearse with my pianist who is no where to be found and unavailable by phone. It's 10 minutes before my audition and my pianist finally arrives (there were accidents on the road and she was delayed). I have hardly played in weeks due to a hand injury, I'm not properly warmed up and we just kind of crash through the trickier spots in the few we have left to us.

Cold fingered.

In pain.


I played my biggest audition.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 3, 2008 at 4:02 PM

Well, I had a surreal dream last night.  Not quite a nightmare, but not all that fun.   I dreamed I was visiting a violin shop in the Midwest (that shall remain nameless, mainly because I was really there this past summer, and they also did fabulous work on Guido, my violin.  They were all really nice, so go figure) to try out violins.   I was trying to play a violin  that one of the owners had made, but the bow the shop provided me to use with was really heavy, like a bass bow.  I couldn't play the violin at all, and was terribly frustrated.

Oh, woe is me, the "I Am So Insecure, It Is Pathetic" dream.  Both owners of the shop started laughing at me!  I was in tears.

"But, I can't play with this bow.  It is way too heavy.  Everything just crunches."

"That is the correct bow.  It is your bow arm that is so awful;"

So, they left me standing there, crying, totally upset, no violin to play, but then Clive Owen showed up, and I instantly felt better.

And then, I woke up.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 3, 2008 at 4:15 PM

not  "use with", but just "use".  Sorry.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 4, 2008 at 1:39 AM


one of my worst nightmare sis actually rooted in reality. Ove rhte last few yeras there has been a distinct tendency for female orchestral players to wear black dresses that are fixed diagonally across one shoulder leaving the right arm and shoulder bare.   With all due respect very few women violnists actually have toned triceps and this is one of the first parts of the anaanatomy to go flobbily wobbily after time ha smarched on a lttle. 

My worst nightmare is to see a whole section with the outside player being femal and wearing such a dress.  On ocassion it has been very close....



From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on November 4, 2008 at 2:48 PM

I was in the middle of performing the 4th movement of the Brahms first piano trio with two other students at Caltech when I heard a crash from the piano and the pianist stopped playing.  The pedal had fallen completely off the instrument.  This was more of a nightmare for the pianist than for me, but he handled it well.  They repaired the piano over the intermission and we replayed the 4th movement again afterwards.  The next trio group went on following us, and used the same piano without further incident.

My scariest violin nightmare, however, is actually something more subtle:  performing and thinking I did okay, wanting honest feedback and hoping at least some of the feedback is positive or at least constructive.  And then having people just avoid me and avoid talking about it at all.  And finding out much later that they didn't think it was very good but didn't want to tell me because they didn't want to hurt my feelings.  Being in the situation of having given an embarrassingly bad performance and being the only one in the room who doesn't know it.

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