Can you make someone cry?

May 1, 2008 at 05:43 PM · I'm not sure I've ever stood on a stage and made a whole audience weep except for maybe my Mother, but I have been an elementary school music teacher before and have had some experiences that were very stirring.

The first was as a first year teacher. I was slated to teach a 3rd grade violin program and in the first week with the class I played for them. I made them all sit on the floor, turned off the bright lights, and played Meditation from Thais for them. At one point this little boy started crying and couldn't be consoled. I took him aside and he told me it made him think of his mommy had passed away the previous year.

Replies (46)

May 1, 2008 at 05:45 PM · I did not make anyone cry, exactly, but when my student orchestra played in a prison concert, the inmates were rather loud. Somehow, during a Mozart concerto, with yours truly as the soloist, they fell silent. Out of compassion, perhaps?

May 1, 2008 at 05:52 PM · I hate when the prisoners get unruly when playing!!

May 1, 2008 at 05:50 PM · Marina, I wanted to cry too when I read about the boy and his mom...

My boys played at a fundraising event at a pub(yes, a pub) owned by one of the parents in the school. They played Bach concerto in D minor, 2nd mvt.

The owner came up to me later and said she was so moved she cried. I dont know if she was just being polite. Well, I take it as a compliment.

May 1, 2008 at 05:50 PM · Hi Marina,

Thank you for sharing that story about the little boy. Really very heartwarming. With violin playing, you can move a person to cry. I think you do that mainly with the vibrato. That's what really makes the violin sing. I always aim to get the most gorgeous tone out of my violin that I possibly can, and I hope I move people in that way. I have listened to many violinists play and some of them have moved me to tears or very close to them. Two violinists stand out in my mind. The first is your former teacher, David Nadien. His gorgeous vibrato really gets to me. As mentioned in another thread, I was fortunate to work with him out at Wolf Trap in Virginia. He played the Brahms concerto and also the Glazunov. I also saw him in youtube playing the violin solo from Swan Lake. I cried. Unfortunately that clip is no longer in youtube. The other violinist that comes to my mind is Ferras. His rendition of the slow movement from the Sibelius concerto is like heaven, and I cry when I hear him play it.

May 1, 2008 at 05:59 PM · I make people, who are so moved, cry pretty often. I always feel bad. =(

May 1, 2008 at 05:54 PM · When I was 15 and was studying with Miss DeLay I was learning Massenet Meditation for an upcoming recital at Juilliard. My accompanist at the time, Scotty Feigin was rehearsing with me and also coaching. He told me that when I play that piece, all the ladies have to take out their hankechiefs. After playing it through it twice he told me, " I dont see any hankerchiefs."

After 2 more tries he finally said," Ok, I see one!

May 1, 2008 at 06:36 PM · I may have made people cry but it definitely wasn't because my playing was beautiful...

May 1, 2008 at 06:55 PM · I can top that, Michael.

Lately I haven't seen any of the neighbor's cats around. I think my harmonics practice inspired them to commit ritual suicide.

May 1, 2008 at 07:17 PM · As I get older, I find myself crying sometimes when I hear some music. And, of course, to follow up on what has already been stated, I have made several of my violin teachers cry.

:) Sandy

May 1, 2008 at 07:31 PM · I cried once watching a Japanese drama when the orchestra played beethoveen's 7th, more so of how the musician had grown throughout than being moved by someone's playing. I'm starti g to be a bit worried coz I've MOT been movedto tears by anyones playing.

May 1, 2008 at 08:32 PM · We have to remember that when people are moved as they listen to us, it is as much to do with their propensity to be moved as it is with our playing.

Probably more.


May 1, 2008 at 08:58 PM · PM Rolf, I know which one you're talking about. I love that show too. My son was inspired by it to learn Beethovan Speing Sonanta.

May 1, 2008 at 09:04 PM · As players,we provide an impetus for a propensity

of the listener.

To make another shed even one drop of a cry is a gift to be cherished.

Others cry because they recognize some type of basic truism that is activated in their own heads.

No one can deny what they consider to be the truth in their perceptions,therefore,a tear may ensue---or,at least, a welling up of the eyes and this is good !

May 1, 2008 at 09:14 PM · I had a studio member of mine tell me that she got choked up when I played the Franck, Symphonie Espagnol, & Prokofiev 5 melodies at my 30 min recital.

Another time was when I premiered a work for a friend at a composer's forum...A guitar and violin duo by John Paul Brabant...another student, who I didn't meet until a year later, recalled that recital because his piece and our rendition of it moved her so.

I've always been really surprised that I was able to do that, since I know I am FAARR from a great violinist and am always my own worst definitely hasn't happened often, but when it has it's been one of the greatest compliments given to me. :)

May 1, 2008 at 10:49 PM · Sometimes, it's just the music. And I guess it depends largely on the depth of the performance as well. There's quite a lot of music that makes me cry, but strangely enough it's not just classical stuff. I get really choked up when I hear the end of "Caravan" by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers--It's one of those really loud, long dissonant jazz chords that are meant to just make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up straight! And knowing that these people played this piece to the best of their ablilities makes it even more exciting to me!

I also cry when I'm writing a piece. It's such a strange experiment, but when I believe I'm making something beautiful, it gets to me.

May 1, 2008 at 10:58 PM · My teacher says that when playing emotional music let the music do the emoting and the violinist keep the emotial gyrations non existant.

May 1, 2008 at 11:14 PM · i recently invited one of my "girl friends" over, and i played Sarabande for her, and she cried. I also played through the Tchaikovsky concerto, and more Bach for my friends Grandma who just got diagnosed with cancer. She smiled mostly, but her husband was weeping the whole way through. It is hard to act like they feel, because they find the music so beautiful, yet you're like "DAMN, i just played everything in tune..." It is different to other people...

I once cried while playing bach because of a letter I had recieved from a friend telling me about her being raped. Bach is the best medicine.

May 2, 2008 at 12:31 AM · Jake--I laughed so hard about the ritual suicide comment. That was hilarious. I totally know what you mean about practicing harmonics. Especially double harmonics. I took the good advice someone posted here about Sevcik, and I've been practicing that again. I should open the windows. I'm allergic to cats.

May 2, 2008 at 01:18 AM · The comment about how we, as musicians have to concentrate on the music and not the emoting makes a lot of sense...

I remember one orchestra concert when we did R. Strauss' "Four Last Songs" and it was a venue where the audience was really up close to the strings. One woman near the front was visibly crying during the last song where the quote from "Tod und Verklaerung" comes in and I found it very disconcerting as a player because I DO also find that point in the music very emotional but I couldn't share her emotion because I was concentrating so hard on playing my 2nd violin part. So it felt gratifying in one way because she was obviously moved by our performance, but frustrating in another because I couldn't really share that emotional feeling.

It is probably best not to be aware of the emotional reactions of the audience whilst playing - which is why I personally prefer it when auditoriums are darkened during concerts. It makes concentration so much easier.

May 2, 2008 at 03:45 AM · LyeYen Tien, Nodame cantabile right? That was what inspired me to learned the violin!!!

May 2, 2008 at 04:31 AM · My husband and I made my mother-in-law cry when we played for her the first time she visited us.

I sometimes have goose pimples when I play, but lately I’ve been weeping for no obvious good reason other than being introduced to the whispered ‘Ah’ in Alexander Technique. Buri or someone familiar with AT may be able to shed some light on this.

May 2, 2008 at 04:43 AM · Greetings,

it is possible to have a very deep emotional response to this and many other aspects of AT. Basically you are just releasing stuff thta needed to go.

Usually a taecher will hold back on what can be done , especially in seminars , because a stduent can become very frightenmed by the sudden experience of total freedom and rush of energy from lengthening. One opf my teachers, Rose Marie was very good at gettign people to elt go of rotting emotional damage but she explained to me how she had to judge exactly what wa ssafe and what wasn`T and move in very quickly to comfort a perosn who became to frightened.



May 2, 2008 at 05:00 AM · I cried when the violinist I was in love with in uni told me I wasn't her type (through a friend). The year was 1993. Ah, young love.

I cried when the core local music/instrumental teachers all ganged up on me on my teaching prac, making me fail no matter what good I did. I wasn't considered 'in' enough for 'em. Those suckers ran me out of town in the end, and saw me off on the bus.

I used to leave my prac school at lunchtime and go into town for lunch, staring at my sandwiches through blurry tears, alone. The year was 2002.

Oh yes, music can make me cry sometimes.

May 2, 2008 at 04:57 AM · Meditation from Thais always makes people cry – I have played it at a variety of places, from birthday parties to weddings to funerals to fundraisers to recitals, and it is always a crowd favorite and a tearjerker. I usually program it simply because so many people recognize it. Something about it strikes a chord (pun intended) with many people, and it’s just so emotional and tragic. Maybe people identify with the sense of longing it conveys. It’s beautifully sad. :)

May 2, 2008 at 05:00 AM · Oh Buri, thank you so much! My AT teacher and I talked about it so I wasn't too scared of the tears, just felt strange and somewhat embarrassing, as I couldn’t stop weeping on the street on my way home from the AT lesson. Very refreshing, sad and beautiful.

May 2, 2008 at 05:28 AM · Well, it's slightly off topic, but my practicing took a real dive when each of my boys were infants because it consistently drove them to tears The sound of the violin would make them shriek as if in great pain. I eventually deduced that their ears were reacting to the overtones and harmonics, especially on higher strings.

Life got better as each of them passed the 1-year mark. Has anyone else had an experience like this with babies? I know plenty of folks (myself included) have had dogs "accompany" us while practicing....

May 2, 2008 at 07:12 AM · There have only been a few time people have cried while I played. At my grandfather's funeral (we were all crying to begin with), and I think I saw tears in my teacher's eyes during lessons this last week.

I don't think my teacher had tears in his eyes due to my indredible playing however. It was most likely due to me trying to play notes way up in the nether-region of the fingerboard - out of tune. I DID give him a pair of earplugs before starting this piece, but for some reason he hasn't used them yet!

May 2, 2008 at 12:38 PM · Carolyn, I'm glad to hear that Nadien brought you to tears with his playing. I just heard a recording of his Glazunov and I must say it is the best version I've ever heard, it almost makes me like the piece. Nadien made me cry too... lots of times. But it wasn't cause he serenaded me or anything, just routine lessons haha.

On another note I once had a very strange reaction to a painting. A few years ago I visited the Modern Museum of Art in ny (MoMA) for the first time since its renovation. The first painting you see on the ground floor is Monet's WaterLilies. I immediately was overcome with emotion and I couldn't stop crying. We had to move on to the other spaces. The new building however is constructed in such a way that on each floor there is a window or open space where you can look down and see Monet's painting, visible from every floor! Each time I glanced at it I sprung new tears. It was a very odd experience. The only other time I cried when looking at paintings was during the Edward Munch exhibit - that was powerful as well and also within eyeshot of the Monet haha.

May 2, 2008 at 04:48 PM · I've cried a few times in lessons too--wish I could say it was only the overwhelmed by beauty kind of crying!

May 2, 2008 at 07:56 PM · I have, I think it depends on the atmosphere too. I played the meditation from Thais, Beethoven Romance No.2 and Bloch Nigun in a cathedral concert, the concert being called "music for meditation and contemplation" - I think this sort of atmosphere heightens the senses and makes people more open to what is around them and how it affects them

May 2, 2008 at 08:15 PM · "Life got better as each of them passed the 1-year mark. Has anyone else had an experience like this with babies?"

A friend's baby has exactly this response to my playing - she quickly excused him saying he hadn't heard a violin before, only guitars and piano/keyboard. I don't think I'll do recitals for babies in the near future haha.

May 5, 2008 at 12:57 AM · I played "Thais" on a studio recital once, and a whole bunch of parents cried. I also got crying when I did the 1st movement of the Barber concerto on a different studio recital.

May 5, 2008 at 01:13 AM · My daughter can make me cry - while her playing is lovely, I think I am mostly moved because I know all the hard work that she put into her pieces and into learning all these incredibly difficult techniques. I am moved and amazed by all violinists really. She makes her grandparents cry too - but they are a pushover audience. :)

May 5, 2008 at 01:11 AM · The music of Bach, Mozart and Brahms has the substance to cause personal tears from a recording...generally all others need to be "live" to elicit such a response....for instance, Bruckner #7 on CD no matter how loud is still inert...whereas seeing it done or being in the orchestra performing it can really tug at the cardio-regions of the bod. There are too many variables to offer a definitive formula for tear production....I recall playing viola for Eiji Ouie doing Beethoven 9...during the slow movt. his performance conducting technique was so understated from rehearsal procedure that I was thunderstruck and did a serious amout of weeping whilst slugging thru the bratsche part.

May 7, 2008 at 01:19 PM · The first year I attended a Suzuki institute I heard a very slight, blonde girl play La Folia so beautifully. I immediately ran outside and called my husband to tell him about it, my face streaming with tears.

My older son occasionally has people come up to him after concerts in tears. The first time happened when he was seven and played the Vivaldi a minor concerto in a masterclass. The teacher was overcome with emotion. Once after a recital in which he played Tartini's Devil's Trill Sonata, the Wieniawski F# minor and the Mozart G violin Concerto he said, "Mommy, there was a woman in the front row just crying!" He was a tiny eleven year old at the time. As he has gotten older I think it hasn't happened as frequently. There is just something amazing about a child's playing that people respond to.

May 7, 2008 at 03:56 PM · I wonder why we cry or if that even matters. Personally I cry at hallmark cards so crying at an 8 year old playing well isn't so much of a stretch for me.

Why do you cry at concerts?

May 7, 2008 at 06:13 PM · Heck, I'm just happy if people don't cover their ears while I play. :-)

May 8, 2008 at 01:38 AM · My playing has made playing has made people cry. Let's just leave it at that.

May 8, 2008 at 02:01 PM · As to Marina's question about why we cry, I am currently reading James Johnson's Listening in Paris, which traces public performances of and response to music starting in the early 18th century. Johnson describes a change in listening habits in the 1770's, connected with the introduction of Gluck's music at the Opera, where people learned to expect (and give) deeply emotional responses, including tears, to music. He says this replaced a mode of public listening which was more distracted and less intensely involved, and that the new mode of weeping at the Opera was remarked on as a novelty by those present.

I'm not sure Johnson is going to make his case perfectly firmly (I'm only in the middle of the book), but it's worth considering that weeping as a response to music we recognize as moving is to some extent learned and not "natural" nor inevitable.

May 8, 2008 at 02:28 PM · My old teacher once told a student that the student's playing made her want to take an asprin. That made someone want to cry.

May 8, 2008 at 04:37 PM · My dogs howl. Does that count? Erica : )

May 9, 2008 at 11:44 PM · I've made myself cry for various reasons. I think someone told me I made my dad cry once. I didn't see it happen though. I don't think I've ever seen my dad cry for that matter.

May 10, 2008 at 02:49 AM · Oh,I've made myself cry several times.

There ARE occasions when everything goes well !

When you are in the zone,you know it and nothing can stop you from playing better,this is a given.

In my experience,these occasions only occur when playing with other string artists,then you feed upon other strings,incorporate same and make it your own.

You have to become a piece to play in front of others.You must sing through your violin and sing using vibrato with your fingertips_when people hear your heart and soul--they should be attentive

but sometimes they may not even listen.

just walk in central park and sing after dark !

May 11, 2008 at 09:36 AM · Amen, Joe!

May 13, 2008 at 07:17 PM · I've only ever managed to make someone cry by playing piano. In fact, I was playing a variation of "The Promise" from the Piano soundtrack, of all things. I turned around when I finished to see my friend's eyes welling up quite dramatically. I felt...I dunno...a mixture of pride and humility, if that's possible. I think the pride came from knowing I'd managed to actually play it well enough for it to hold up, and humility from knowing that it wasn't my playing so much as the piece, itself, that made him cry. It really is a beautifully melancholy piece.

Anyway, it's one of my greatest hopes in learning to play the violin that I'll be able to have a similar effect on someone some day. Wish me luck! :)

May 14, 2008 at 02:27 AM · I've been asked to play at funerals, but that's too easy, emotions are high to begin with - I;d say every time there, and Thais is a good one for that. In church services (not evangelical, so we aren't stirring the spirit to some feverish pitch, more of a middle-to-upper-class-white-guy-church, I've had people tell me that I have inspired tears with Thais, Vocalise, Amazing Grace, and Corelli. I know I've done it with Amazing Grace at weddings - again, not hard. Not in an actual recital or concert.

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