Printer-friendly version
The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Has anyone ever made fun of you for playing the violin?

October 21, 2011 at 4:46 PM

These days I love toting my fiddle through life, and I'm happy to be a bit "different" because I'm a musician. But it wasn't always so.

My violin playing has always been a source of deep satisfaction, but when I was an adolescent, I struggled with a nagging embarrassment over carrying around my violin case, admitting how much time I spent practicing and also being unable to make people understand why I found playing the violin to be much more "cool" to me than any other activity on the planet. They just didn't get it. A few times it amounted to downright bullying.

Of course, some people did understand, but it took time to find them. When I did, it was like drinking fresh water after a long run. I still remember a bus ride with about 50 kids in my youth orchestra, when we were all coming home from an retreat in the mountains. One of the cellists had brought a big boom box -- you know how teenagers like to blast their music. We unanimously decided to blast Beethoven's 7th Symphony over the boom box -- it was a piece we had all played together. We spent the rest of the ride winding through the Rocky Mountains, with everyone singing their parts to Beethoven 7. I felt so…understood!

So I've created a vote on this subject, has anyone ever made fun of you for playing the violin? And you might want to comment on how you got through it.

I also wanted to share this video, made by the musicians in Time For Three: violinists Zach De Pue and Nick Kendall and double bassist Ranaan Meyer. They describe it as "the story of so many kids who every day face challenges to who they are and who they want to be: their dreams, their ambitions, their identity. This video is for you guys. Be strong. Stick with it. We did, and we are stronger for it."


From bill platt
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 5:48 PM

I didn't play violin in jr high, I played tommy gun :-)

From Marsha Weaver
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Although I wish I had begun studying violin when I was a kid, when you start an endeavor like this at 60  years old the chorus of "Atta girl!!" is pretty uplifting.  I can't say that the support is for the quality of my playing -- I suspect it's more of a salute to being this spunky at my age!!  :)

I don't think I would have been teased about it in my youth.  There was a very close-knit musical community in my school -- I believe even some of the jocks secretly wished they could join the "music nerds".

From bill platt
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 5:55 PM

I know a varsity hockey captain who plays 1st chair. Athletics and orchestra are far from mutually exclusive these days.

From Gene Huang
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 5:55 PM

I can relate to the tf3 video.  I too performed in my school talent show and received the only standing ovation, but remember being teased for carrying the violin.  Times might be different now, as there is a major emphasis on anti-bullying at my kids' schools, and my middle-school-age son has never expressed the desire to quit the violin.

From Jim Hastings
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 6:14 PM

Individualist that I am, I, too, was "happy to be a bit 'different.'"  But I don't recall any times when other kids actually made fun of me for playing violin.  The nearest incidents I can think of:

  1. For a few weeks in high school, one kid would give me some good-natured ribbing by singing the opening measures of Kreutzer 2 whenever he saw me.  Not a problem -- he and I got along well.
  2. Same era: I often sought out unused washrooms, locker rooms, gym floors, and storage areas where I could play to get really good reverb.  This brought diverse reactions from other kids.  Most of them, including the school jocks, said they liked it.  I'd sometimes find that a small group had gathered.  They'd say: "Oh, we were hanging around out here, just listening" or "Hmmm -- that's cool" or "How do you know where the positions are?"

True, there were a few who found my practicing in such unorthodox venues downright comical.  And -- you guessed it -- one or two others did express mild derision at such nonconformity.  Again, not a problem -- no disruption.  I just went on doing what I loved doing.  If I could go back, I wouldn't change a thing.

From bill platt
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 7:05 PM

" singing the opening measures of Kreutzer 2"  Haha that's definitely more praise than picking for sure!

I wonder if Jim is a little older than me. Or not. But basically anything older than the Rolling Stones was Ancient Music in my generation...

From Christian Vachon
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 11:07 PM


Topic aside, I just wanted to say that that is a pretty awesome video!!!




From Malik Chaney
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 12:06 AM

 Well, I'm pretty young, and yeah, a lot. Less now but typically I've always been teased a lot for playing violin. I suppose some part of it has to do with me being black.

From Eloise Garland
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 1:10 AM

 I was the only violinist in my first high school, and therefore different to everyone else. I think in some respects, teasing over playing the violin could be worse for boys, but nevertheless, I went to an all-girls school and felt teased by particular groups of other girls over my passion. When I was 12, one girl stood up whilst the whole class was watching and told me I'd never make it in the world of music and that I was useless at playing the violin. I snapped at that moment and told her that one day I'd have the last laugh because I'd make it far when she wouldn't. Let's just say, I am now having the last laugh because I am currently in a world class music school getting where I want to be in life. :)

From Mendy Smith
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 1:18 AM

 My 25 year long sabbatical started when I started High School, so I avoided much of the problem.  However, when I was playing, I had a double whammy being a violist.  I got picked on by the orchestra as well.  

However, when I started again in Malaysia, there were many-o-weekend nights when I plugged the viola into an amp and effects box and introduced a band to the world of Bach.  The drummer and bass guitarist fell in love with Bach.  Only one spoke English, but the music made up for it.  In return, I learned some really cool lead guitar licks (played on viola).

Now, I'm in demand... go figure!

From Betsey Karako
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 2:46 AM

I've never really had any mean teasing, but I have had a lot of "sawing wood" and other type jokes from people that don't know what they're talking about. And also the fact that where I live soccer is king for most people, and classical music is pretty much a nerdy profession to be looked at with great curiosity; not to mention that if you are obsessive about it (as I am), you are treated as someone who is quite close to the looney bin. So I haven't really had any mean teasing, just a lot of ignorance. But soon I'm going to be auditioning for an awesome music school, and then the sawing wood jokes will greatly decrease, I hope. :)

From elise stanley
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 10:40 AM

In the school I went to in england music was always regarded as an achievement and not a nerd thing at all - the musicians were even singled out for special status.  So I was very fortunate on that count.  However, I can still relate as I was teased mercilessly for being a 'smart kid' so the video stirs some painful memories. 

By the way the music and playing were fantastic - I'd like to explore some of this....

From bill platt
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 12:36 PM


That is an interesting hypothesis. I have three names for you to be aware of (to help curve the trajectory of "common knowledge" back to knowledge rather than absurdly narrow current pop culture):

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Not blues. Not jazz. Not Country. But all of those things!

Ray Nance. Trumpet, vocals, violin, with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

and last but not least, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. (Rachel Barton-Pine has recorded a bunch of his work fairly recently, worth a listen in my opinion).

Apparently, Frederick Douglass also played the violin.  Interesting list and short biographies of lots of other "black" violinists here:

And finally, in the current "hip-hop" (in quotes because real hip-hop came and went long before the big-money "hip-hop" business of today) generation, we have some rather amazing stuff going on. Fellow v-commer Jasmine Reese interviewed a really crazy-good hip-hop violinist a few years back, Daniel Bernard Roumain :

(The cool techniques he does: my son found a lot of those same sounds in his country fiddling, and you will hear them in lots of other non-classical contemporary string-band stuff, Darol Anger etc. Seems that every genre other than classical explores the percussive, noisy, and distorted sounds a lot more)

. You can find tons of stuff on youtube:

Personally, I think "blackness" in America is a social construct rather than a race, but it is nevertheless something which is hard to escape dealing with in one way or another, from time to time.

p.s. I just went and read your bio. I suppose you already know all of this. But I'll leave it up anyway in case someone finds it useful:-)

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 4:42 PM

I'm in the "no" category.  The high school I went to had around 1600 kids, and at least 300 were involved in orchestra, band, jazz band, or chorus.  I guess maybe there were just too many of us to pick on.  The quality of the programs was top-notch, we got to take out-of-state trips each year, the kids in the music department usually had good grades.

This was the mid-'70's, though, when working hard at something and doing well wasn't as desperately uncool as it is now.  It would be interesting to divide out the yes and no responses on this survey by age and by whether or not the respondant was in a school music program.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 5:50 PM

I was never teased for playing violin, but I fortunate enough to attend a Dork/Nerd Hippie-Style Magnet School, and the local performing arts school.

Some of my students are teased at school for playing the violin.  The worst of this, like everything else in life, seems to occur in middle school...

From Margaret Lee
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 7:21 PM

If I had been more part of the hip crowd, I would have been teased.

From Andrei Pricope
Posted on October 23, 2011 at 1:15 AM

Growing up, I was teased quite mercilessly for playing the cello. The lucky ones now flip burgers back in the old country... VERY sweet revenge.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 23, 2011 at 10:20 PM

I was teased more for being younger than everyone else (I was ahead two years in school) and for being a nerdy girl, than for playing the violin.  I did have some people ask me whether I had a machine gun in my violin case, but they were kidding (I think!).

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 23, 2011 at 10:33 PM

I'm so glad that you ran this poll, Laurie.  For years, I've believed that I was the only one who was teased.

I went to an all-girl public high school that today would be called a magnet school.  This was in the 60s, and the crowd I hung out with was the liberal intellectual and bohemian type.  You wouldn't expect to be teased about playing the violin in this environment.  However, one of my friends told me, in all seriousness, that I looked like I played the violin.  I was devastated.  I felt that I had been marked as a weirdo and an outsider.  For years I tried to hide the fact that I played the violin.  I would say "my music teacher" instead of "my violin teacher."  Looking back, I don't understand why I was so upset.  

From Thomas Cooper
Posted on October 24, 2011 at 2:47 AM

If you're a teenager that goes to a school big on sports, you're gonna get made fun of for the violin.

Join an orchestra. Its great to meet people just like you who won't tease you.

From bill platt
Posted on October 24, 2011 at 6:08 PM

"If you're a teenager that goes to a school big on sports, you're gonna get made fun of for the violin."

Not necessarily true. Se my post above.


From Royce Faina
Posted on October 24, 2011 at 6:35 PM

In South Texas kids made fun of anything and everything. Nothing was sacred! :)

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

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

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

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



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