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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Have you ever considered quitting the violin?

July 26, 2008 at 12:10 AM

I was struck this week by this post in which a member was showered with judgment for deciding to take a break from the violin, give up the private studio, and just teach ("just teach"!) public school.

Sometimes I think that the life of a violinist is a recipe for inevitable burnout and/or disillusionment. When I see someone opting for sanity and balance in his life, I can't possibly look on this as a bad decision.

What comes to mind is a blog comment that Buri made a few months ago: "Draw a square to represent your life, and write "violin" in it. Now suppose you lost the ability to play for whatever reason. Your life becomes empty and pointless. Now take the box and divide it into nine squares. In each box write something that is important to you: family, relationships, reading, exercise, cleaning, meditation, cooking, practice, study, volunteer work and so on...You lose something from your life that is important you still have eight other things going for you."

I think the problem comes for violinists when they make the nine boxes and fill them something like this: practicing, performing recitals, playing in orchestras, teaching privately, teaching in schools, doing lesson plans, researching repertoire, listening to violin music, and taking pedagogy classes.

What happened to family and relationships? Reading and exercising? Cleaning and cooking? Being a human?

Sometimes the "bottom line" financial situation requires filling the nine boxes like so: working at Starbuck's, practicing, performing recitals, playing in orchestras, teaching privately.....

Okay you get the picture. This is still a problem.

ONE BOX for the violin, in all its permutations. And lay off the burnt-out music teacher. I mean, have you ever been so frustrated you wanted to quit? I have! But I didn't. Instead, I did a few more things for those other boxes (journalism, motherhood, sewing, yoga, etc.), and that is part of why I've been playing the violin for more than 30 years and teaching for 20, while most of the people I went to school with do not even play any more.

From Neil Cameron
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 12:32 AM
Never thought of quitting, but have given up for periods of time. However, I always think of them as unfortunate hiatuses caused by the pressures of life. Even when I'm not playing, I still know that I'll always be coming back as soon as possible.


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 1:20 AM
I did quit. Twice, once to get a Ph.D., once when I was 8 months pregnant with my first child and exhausted. Both gaps ended up lasting about 8 years.

But each time I started again it was worth it. And, I think that each time I started again, I was a better musician than I had been before.

From Mara Gerety
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 1:49 AM
Is there seriously anyone out there who NEVER even considered quitting? I spent the better part of my childhood hating to practice and threatening to quit--but when my mom pulled her usual trick on me and pretended to go along with it, taking away my violin and ostentatiously preparing to sell it, I would freak the heck out by the end of the day and fiercely snatch it back. :)
From Hope Paolotto
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 2:50 AM
Not a day goes by that I don't think about how much easier life could be if I just quit. Mostly when I am frustrated with something. But I keep pushing along...
From Annette Brower
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 4:22 AM
I have quit violin for 10 minutes, a week, and as long as a month. It is a love/hate relationship. I mostly love the violin but it is not for the weak or lazy. Since I am neither, I suspect I will continue on forever because it defines a portion of who I am. The experiences I have had with teachers, orchestras, performing, and teaching my own students have brought me so much joy that I can't imagine giving it up permanently.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 5:02 AM
Violin is a huge commitment. Like any commitment, there are always chances for one reason or the other you can’t keep it any more. This happens to me in all aspects of life: jobs, relationships, career choices, and yes, violin. I don’t regret that I did quit because I went on and did the things I wanted to do, and also learned how to pick it up again and what it takes to get back to shape. Most of all, even though I’m not planning to quit again, I know there is a life after violin. Oddly enough, it is this kind of comfortable thought that keep my violin playing ever so committed.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 6:53 AM
This is a puzzling question. At some point, I was branded as a violinist. Sometimes, I played a lot, and at one point I majored on it in college. I decided not to finish that degree, but even though I went through months of inactivity, I never considered it "quitting". I went through periods in my life where playing the violin was not very practical or useful to me, but how can you truly quit something that is branded onto your soul?
From Emily Grossman
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 7:04 AM
PS I think it is important to "quit" on a regular basis. You learn so much while you are away from your violin, and you'd be shocked at the new things you discover when you go back.
From Paul Grant
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 10:26 AM
I've thought about it...but I just can't see myself doing anything else.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 11:19 AM
I really agree with and support Buri's idea of filling the 9 boxes with different activities and interests. Many people in my field have a similar problem, in which their boxes are filled with things like "teaching courses," "working in lab," "traveling on the seminar circuit," "writing grants," "going to meetings," "writing papers," "mentoring students" . . . I'm not at 9 yet, but I hope you get the picture. In that part of my life, as with music, I've tried to choose a path where I don't fill up all my boxes with work-related items. I started playing the violin/viola again 2 years ago after I took a job as a project manager rather than a bench scientist. Taking that job enabled me to empty a few boxes of work-related items and left one available for "music."

However (and I assume this is true in music as well), this was a conscious choice to step off a well-established, well-worn, career track. I will never be a successful principal investigator running my own lab, like many of my graduate school peers. Most days, I'm more than okay with this. I'm able to remind myself of the richness I get from parenthood, from music, from church and volunteer work, and realize that I'm a very lucky person. But there are also days when I'm wistful about what could have been and I miss being at the cutting edge of scientific discovery.

It has also seemed pretty obvious to me that, like scientists, most successful violinists get that way because they fill most of their boxes with violin-related activities.

There are only so many hours in a day, and if you spend 5 of them practicing your instrument, plus a couple more for rehearsals and/or lessons that you take and/or teaching commitments and/or going to concerts and/or performing in concerts, then, as long as you also factor in adequate sleeping, eating, and general life maintenance, there isn't really much time left for the other boxes.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 12:23 PM
I haven't ever wanted to quit violin. There are times when it all gets a bit tiring, but isn't any job is like that?

I can't imagine ever getting sick of music. It can be a chore to practice gig charts sometimes, as opposed to practicing music just for oneself (insert favorite piece here).

What gets me down is not the music or the violin, but the politics: orchestra politics, contractor politics, music school politics, union politics, youth orchestra politics, studio politics, etc. THAT stuff is a drag!

From Alayna Faulkenberg
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 3:49 PM
once I really hated my orchestra teacher and wanted to quit because it wasnt a healthy environment and my mom said that if I quit she was going to sell my violin, and I couldnt bear the thought of losing one of my best friends, so I stayed in orchestra and that teacher was gone by the next year. :)
From Anne Horvath
Posted on July 26, 2008 at 4:03 PM
"isn't any job is like that?" really should be "isn't any job like that?"

Too much "is", sorry.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on July 27, 2008 at 4:04 AM
Can say I've ever wanted to quit viola, but I have considered quitting my job on occasion, but never acted on it. I like that 9-box idea. Mine looks something like: work in office, work at home, family, viola practice, orchestra, viola lessons, chamber music, gardening, and pets.
From Tess Z
Posted on July 28, 2008 at 11:28 PM
Laurie, if I may...I don't think the OP was 'showered with judgment for deciding to take a break from the violin..."

The issue was the callused method he used to dump his private students.

Yes, variety is the spice of life for everyone, not just violinists. Too much work and not enough play is a recipe for a lonely, frustrated existence.

From Dimitri Adamou
Posted on July 29, 2008 at 3:25 AM
I'm still too young and in-experienced enough to even think about quitting. Being able to play alone ful-fills one part of my lifes desires. Anything further than that is a gift! (However I do wish to take it up to a professional level!)

I can understand what it is like however, as I used to do programming - eventually I got fed up with it as there was what I found "too much demand" (I was apart of an Indie Game Dev group) - eventually I just stood up and said, "No I can't do this anymore. I don't even like games." ... I just wish it went that simple though, haha.

There is more to life than submitting to demands of others, atleast if you feel that by quitting that you can gather SOME control to yourself then if it gives you peace of mind - why not?

Some people dream of playing professionally (As myself) but I've always often heard the quote "The grass is never greener on the other side" - which is true in alot of cases, I think it ultimately comes down to the persons perspective and ability to modulate between varying views and coming out unscatched! Screw conservative democracy.

((Did I just write this??))

From Kim Vawter
Posted on July 29, 2008 at 10:58 PM
I am very new at this so after only 3 years at it--No-NO-NQ
Never crossed my mind. I have time and desire--I did quit piano but I still use what ever skill I have but the violin is different. i see progress every day--tiny little things that I can do that I could not do and I like the sound.

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