When/why did you start playing the violin?

May 8, 2008 at 02:37 AM · I was inspired after I heard Rimsy-Korsakov's "Sheherazade" on the radio. Enough said. It was lovely. I was probably around 5. I asked my parents for a violin but I had to start piano instead...:(

jk, I love piano, but I never play it anymore. I finally got my violin when I was 9.

And I distinctively remember when I was 13 and I heard Perlman's recording of the first movement of the Saint-Saens concerto. It was my first :O experience.

So what's your story?

Replies (40)

May 8, 2008 at 03:25 AM · And of course Hilary Hahn's Mister Rogers appearance! Can't forget that.

May 8, 2008 at 03:13 AM · In grade 5 or 6 we had a music teacher at school who played the violin and sometimes he would play for us. That's when I thought it would be very nice to be able to play BUT another experience before that had made an impression on me that the violin was simply too difficult to learn, that I would be too lazy to put in all that work.

In other words, the teacher did instill a faint desire in me to be able to play but it wasn't enough to compel me to sweat for it. It took about 30 years for that faint desire to grow into a strong desire and finally into a commitment. I know that listening to string quartet music has helped me to accommodate the idea "one day I will learn to play" ever so often but I don't actually recall just why I started when I did. And once I had started I wondered what held me back all this time.

May 8, 2008 at 10:32 AM · First, we had the Menuhin "Guide to the Orchestra" LP and listened to it a lot. By then, my elder sister had started piano lessons. Bechstein Grand occupied.

When I was six, one night, as late as 8 p. m. (I was so excited!!) my parents took me to friends of theirs who regularly met for string quartet playing. I was supposed to try out the 'cello, in which I had taken an interest from the Menuhin LP (and the "Piccolo, Sax & Co." series -- know that one, anyone?).

I found myself buried behind that wall of maple, and wasn't too charmed. Then, the wife of the 'cello player offered me her violin. I was charmed out of my blue, and for the occasion carefully polished, sandals.

That was that. My parents found me a teacher, who took us to the luthier, and we chose a rose-red half-size violin. At age 9, I changed to the full-size Tyrolian my father had played as a youth. I play it to this day. The Bechstein Grand sits behind me as I type.

They're family.



May 8, 2008 at 11:14 AM · I started as an adult beginner 10 years ago.

My then 4 year old son was my inspiration, although he was not yet a violinist. He was a "twinkler yet to be".

There are many violinists who have been inspiring to me since then, but none as meaningful.

May 8, 2008 at 11:54 AM · I started when I was 7. It was the first instrument offered to me. I've never looked back

May 8, 2008 at 12:06 PM · Two:

1. A character called Sparky in a narrated set of recordings tries to find the right instrument to play.

2. A friend of my parents who played in church a few times while I was growing up.

I didn't hear a recording of a great violinist until several years after I started studying. I was very deprived.

May 8, 2008 at 11:59 AM · I started playing the violin in 5th grade. My aunt played the viola and I had gone to some of her school concerts previously and thought it would be fun to try viola. The strings teacher at my elementary school, Ralph Boehm, came in and played "Turkey in the Straw" on violin. That cynched it and I decided to try the violin (ahh...good ol' "turkey"...how many young hearts have you ensnared with your wanton call?....) What really inspired me to want to make it my career however was about a year after I started. I went to a summer concert at Wolf Trap to hear the National Symphony play. I remember they played the Brahm's 3rd Symphony and I was just mesmerized watching Elizabeth Adkins (who was sitting as Concertmaster that night) play. She was so emotive in her playing I felt as if she was playing right to me. I thought..."My God...you can play a violin like that....". I think there was a violin solo piece that night too, but to be honest I don't remember who or what it was. Elizabeth Adkins stole the show for me that night. She is still with the NSO as the Associate Concertmaster and still serves to inspire me, 24 years later. On a funny note, the one time I was ever able to play for her was at a friends wedding. This friend was a pianist who studied with Elizabeth Adkins' husband, so she and her husband were invited to the wedding. My friend had asked me to play and she wanted "The Swan" to be played during the lighting of the candles/seating of the grandparents. Well...the stupid candles wouldn't light and so I ended up playing and repeating "The Swan" for what seemed like 8 or 9 times. That piece is fine once or twice...but it went on forever, all the while my feeling like a frog on a dissection table with my "idol" out there watching me. Anyway, the candles finally lit and things progressed as normal. After the wedding, I went past Ms. Adkins, shyly glancing in her direction and she smiled at me and said "Good bow control!". I don't think she was inspired by my playing in the least but still, its funny how things come around full circle.

May 8, 2008 at 09:02 PM · I enjoyed reading that, Thomas--Elizabeth was concertmaster of the North Texas State University (now UNT) orchestra under Anshel Brusilow when I was working on my degree in guitar there. She and her cellist brother, Chris, were quite accomplished players.

I picked up the violin in my late 30's, inspired by such fiddlers as Sam Bush, Mark O'Connor, Vassar Clemens, etc. I had heard live performances of Robert Mann, Szeryng, Stern, Perlman, and Milstein, also Jean-luc Ponty, Jerry Goodman, and recordings of L. Shankar, but I never expected to get beyond basic folk fiddling, so the bluegrass boys were probably more important as far as getting started.

May 8, 2008 at 11:05 PM · "When/why did you start playing the violin?"


I was five. Mom said to. ;)

May 9, 2008 at 12:40 AM · I was 9, I had taken an instrument aptitude test in school and I came back as having good enough pitch descrimination to study violin. So I started to study in school and within a few months was studying privately with the head of the local university string department. I was gifted just not gifted enough.

May 9, 2008 at 01:22 AM · you`ll always be gifted enough for me...



May 9, 2008 at 01:36 AM · I'm glad you knew her Mike. You probably know that her brother is the Principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony. He taught at Southern Methodist University when I attended that school. It seemed like such a small world to me when I got to SMU. Funny enough, even though I didn't know him at all it was comforting to a somewhat lost Virginia boy to have a familiar name nearby.

May 9, 2008 at 03:14 AM · When I was 5, my mom took me to a music store and told me to pick out an instrument. Somehow, I picked the violin, perhaps with her influence, can't really remember!

May 9, 2008 at 04:17 AM · I was 3, and it wasn't so much the violin I was desperate to play as it was music in general. The violin just happened to come in a small enough size for a particularly tiny toddler.

As for major inspirations, my first violin idol, at about age 8 or so, was Leila Josefowicz. Then at 12 or so I discovered Maxim Vengerov, and he was the one who got me really serious about playing the violin. A few years ago was my big Szigeti revelation, then nowadays if asked who my violin-playing/musical idol is I must reply that it is Károly Schranz.

I've also always loved Oistrakh and Milstein in particular, went through a big Ysaye phase a while back....ehhh, now that I think of it, there are precious few famous violinists from whom I haven't taken any inspiration about anything.

Oh, and a tip of the hat to Emil Chudnovsky on the inspiration thing as well. :)

May 9, 2008 at 06:16 PM · Thomas, actually I barely knew Elizabeth, and only because she once dated another guitarist who was and still is a good friend of mine. I did take a class taught by her dad, and, briefly, her mom, both brilliant musicologists.

Chris was amazing--I heard he went straight out of school to principal cello in the DSO. I understand the younger Adkins kids were equally impressive strings players. That's one extraordinary musical family.

May 9, 2008 at 06:39 PM · 18. Always wanted to play before that, but we didn't have orchestra in my town, so I played tuba in band. Got my first violin for my 18th birthday, taught myself for the first year (big mistake), got into college the next year and the rest is history.

May 9, 2008 at 07:37 PM · My influence came primarily from my father. He was the musical one in the family. He used to play the violin, and he was very excellent and advanced, but unfortunately he did not pursue it professionally. As a young child, both of my parents always exposed me to classical music, so I grew up with a great love and appreciation for the musical literature. My father was also Hungarian, and he would always play lps of gypsy violin music, so lol, I think I was destined to become a violinist. It was in the family blood. Over the years, my parents always took me to concerts and they were terribly supportive. I was lucky. And it's always been a love affair for me and the violin.

May 9, 2008 at 10:54 PM · My parents gave me a violin on my 5th birthday. I think my main inspiration was my sister Elizabeth, who was 7 years older than me, and also played the violin. In fact, she was my teacher for several years, and I've always looked up to her. Still do. :)

May 9, 2008 at 11:02 PM · I had always wanted to play an instrument when I was a kid. When I was seven, I just sort of said, I wanna play violin! And there it was. Not a funny story, but it's still a family joke.

May 9, 2008 at 11:37 PM · My dad plays the violin, but I was really inspired to start playing when I was 3 and I heard my 4-year old cousin Andy play Twinkle Twinkle at Christmas. I thought it was so cool, so my parents took me to lessons and we rented a 1/16th size instrument. My cousin Ann who plays the viola has also been an influence on me. I now play my dad's amazingly beautiful violin at college and he's unfortunately stuck playing my full-sized student instrument. I'm so spoiled. :)

May 10, 2008 at 01:22 AM · I wanted to learn how to play the violin after reading the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Charles Ingalls ("Pa" in the books), playing his fiddle, inspired me. The fiddle is really as much a character in the books as any of the people.

Laura said, "Whatever religion, romance, and patriotism I have, I owe largely to the violin and Pa playing in the twilight."

My elementary school started a string program in 4th grade, and that's right around when I read the books, so that's when I started. I had skipped a grade when I was younger, so I was 7 at the time.

May 10, 2008 at 06:01 PM · Ever since I can remember, I couldn't get enough of listening to the Beethoven Violin Concerto (still can't). I asked my parents (at about age 6 or so) if I could take violin lessons, and they agreed. But it didn't work out (Good teacher, but I wasn't really motivated at all and didn't practice). Then, at about age 9, I got serious, and started taking lessons. This time I stuck with it. But it wasn't because I wanted to be a great violinist or to emulate any violinist. It was because by that time I loved listening to so many violin concertos and sonatas and solo pieces that I just had to play the instrument. So it was because of the music itself.

May 10, 2008 at 07:32 PM · I got interested in the violin because I watched a Bond DVD when I was in my early 20s and liked the music and the way the girls seemed to be totally involved and expressive when they played. Last fall, I was looking for a new hobby & I finally bought a cheap violin & started lessons with a violist, because I wanted to eventually play viola like Tania does in the song "Duel". A couple of months later my grandfather gave me his handed-down violin, with which I am totally in love, and my mom bought me a viola. Now (I'm 29) my tastes have changed a bit (Bond got replaced by Lara St John) and I'm working on my current favorite song, Badinerie.

May 11, 2008 at 05:29 AM · In elementary school, we were all required to learn an instrument in the 3rd grade. I really wanted the violin! By the time they got to the "S's", all the violins were taken. I took home the viola, since it was "just like" a violin :)

May 11, 2008 at 12:15 PM · When I was 10 yrs. old. Shirley Gross played the violin, viola and cello for the students and I was hooked. Violinists that inspired me at that time were Roy Clark, Charlie Daniels, and various other fiddlers. The only classical music my family knew of was Warner Bros. spoof of the Barber of Seville. My grandmother and some other family members was excited when I sighned up for orchestra hoping that finaly she/they would learn about and understand classical/long hair music enough to enjoy it.

May 11, 2008 at 04:26 PM · I started on piano when I was 6. I was with a "teacher for gifted students," but I had a hard time concentrating on practice. Uh....what was the question again? Oh yeah-- It was Milstein (with Barberoli) playing the Bruch Gm that galvanized me.

I was told I had the ear to play violin by my piano teacher so she passed me off to her buddy, a violin teacher named Marilyn Garner. What made them think I would practice the violin more than the piano?!?

I too, a kid with corny taste, was very inspired by Scheherazade. Maybe I woulda practiced the harp?!

May 11, 2008 at 08:22 PM · I started piano at 3, and when I was five I went to a friend's house and he had a violin. Of course I was jealous, so I went home and asked my mom if I could play...and finally got one at age 8!

May 12, 2008 at 03:02 AM · In sixth grade, during an assembly, the district band and orchestra teachers and some of their high school students demonstrated various instruments and invited us all to pick out something to play and come to lessons. John Cook (no relation) played the violin so beautifully I was hooked. That same school district ended strings and orchestra four years later. The band survived, of course. Gotta play at the games;>) Only two or three of the strings were able to continue lessons, as I recall.

May 13, 2008 at 07:02 PM · I started June of 2007. I've loved the instrument for as long as I've loved music (especially Irish, folk and similar uses of the instrument), but my parents were a little too poor to get me one, so I had to wait 'til I got older. I did learn to play other instruments growing up, but those instruments were only available to me because family and friends already had them, and they'd teach me to play them as often as I could manage to get around them--which was quite often, to be sure. :)

After setting out on my own, real life kicked in, and I quickly found that my pursuit of photography and graphic design consumed what little money I had left after paying bills and what-not. Well, at the ripe old age of 30, I finally managed to get a violin (it's Romanian, and I find it absolutely beautiful, both in appearance and in sound), and despite wishing I could've taken it up when I was still a wee lad, I'm having the time of my life with it. It's not quite a year later yet, and even I have to admit that I'm doing remarkably well with it. Like anything else in which I've ever taken a strong interest, I've absolutely poured myself into it, almost to the point of being deranged. But, already I've been invited to play with the community orchestra (but when I was told I'd have to restring my instrument to get a sound that would work for them, I said hell naw! I like my Helicores too much! Actually, I really said no 'cause I'm terrified of playing in an orchestra right now. *chuckle*), and though I realize this may not be saying much in the grand scheme of things, for someone who'd never even picked one up until 11 months ago...

Of course, a lot of that stems from my having grown up learning to read music and playing other instruments. I had a huge leg-up there. :)

Anyway, I reckon that might not be much of a story, but it's what I have. ;)

May 13, 2008 at 06:58 PM · I never had any great love for violin. It was too small, too high, too....something. Certainly not for me. But when I was 41 and studying cello (I'd played piano and guitar pretty much my whole life), I started going out with a fiddler (scandanavian folk music). After a year of being a groupie, and watching dozens of hours of videos of other scandanavian folk fiddlers and many hundreds of hours of listening to recordings of them, I thought that it was ridiculous--that I should be playing THAT music as well. So I borrowed a fiddle and started playing. Fortunately, my fiddler also taught lessons and so helped me out a great deal with how to hold the thing, etc. and the two and a half years of cello lessons helped enormously, and I promptly fell totally and completely in love with the instrument (I love just holding it, as well as playing it--and it makes me think I missed out on a huge chunk of life by not being a soprano). I've been playing for three years now, and am part of a scandananavian folk group that plays for dances, and it's the best time I've ever had in my life....

May 14, 2008 at 08:15 AM · Started learning it in school...have yet to find a teacher, but I love my violin :D

May 14, 2008 at 12:52 PM · My profile has the whole story. (If anyone is interested.)

I started playing only recently.

I think another influence(not mentioned in my profile) on me picking up the violin was Japanese guitarist, Sugizo, who also played violin.

May 14, 2008 at 04:51 PM · My parents took me to a Perlman's concert with the New york philharmonic and he performed the Tchaikovsky concerto. I was 4 back then. After that I asked for a violin and fell in love with it. I'm 13 now so I've been playing for 9 years.

May 14, 2008 at 05:21 PM · Lucy- I read your profile, you are incredible! Maxim one of your teachers!!! You Go Girl!!!

August 8, 2008 at 03:59 PM · Started in fifth grade, ten years old, at elementary school.

Hoping to be some kind of a pro some day!

Really didn't listen to classical that much, but at sixteen, Heifetz, Hahn, Bell, Stern, and Perlman all inspire me!

August 8, 2008 at 04:27 PM · I was inspired by my mother. She was an excellent player, and had a studio of 30 or more private students from the time I was born, to when she was in her 70's. She also was the longest member of the Omaha Symphony, with her career spaning 52 years. I started on the piano, but my heart was never really in it. I would listen and watch my mom practice, play, and teach, and all I wanted to do was to play the Violin. I started private and public school Violin lessons in 4th grade, but had already been playing piano for 2 years. My mom and I ended up as stand partners in the Symphony for the last 10 years she was playing, and we had a blast. She was such a great stand partner-she taught me alot about how to play in an orchestra. She passed away 2 years ago, and I miss her terribly. I did inherit her Violin, which she played on for over 30 years, and it is priceless to me. Thanks mom, I am the Violinist and teacher I am today because of you.

August 8, 2008 at 05:25 PM · Started when I was 18 (I'm a pianist), inspired by country style and Irish style fiddler! I really love those country style fiddler thing, as well as greatly inspired by The Corrs during their peak era.

And THEN I grew to love the classical violin pieces. All in all I started because violin is such a facinating instrument after all, I just LOVE listening/playing the violin!

August 8, 2008 at 05:11 PM · When I was in 5th grade (1977-Detroit area) they started a new program called, Suzuki violin. Everyone was required to learn for 10 weeks unless you had a note from your parents saying you were not allowed to participate. One girl actually had a note.

My twin lasted 3 months but I was totally sold. It was the greatest thing I had ever done and I was determined even at that age to do everything exactly as the teacher said. A few months later I was beyond excited to have private lessons and the rest is history...

There are so many great violinists but I have to say that Itzhak Perlman is amazing and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg live is fabulous and entertaining.

August 8, 2008 at 08:43 PM · My grandfather played fiddle. His influence, along with early exposure to performances by Itzhak Perlman, shaped my desire to play the violin.

I remember seeing Itzhak Perlman in a Sesame Street skit with a little boy. Perlman said, "There are some things that are hard for me, but easy for you." He struggled to climb a set a stairs with his crutches, while the boy ran easily up and down them. Then Perlman said, "But there are some things that are hard for you, and easy for me!" The boy picked up a violin and laboriously scratched out a simple tune, and Perlman played something beautiful and complex on his own instrument.

August 8, 2008 at 09:43 PM · I got my first violin as a gift from a widow who wanted to give her husband's violin to someone who would play it and learn to love it as much as he did. I got it in fourth grade and started in the summer before sixth grade when my school program started. I have been playing an obscene game of catch up ever since, I really wish I had started sooner...

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