I recently blogged about this subject, related to an article I read in Psychology Today, about late bloomers. My sense, that the article supports, is that kids who had a skill in music found that out early, or had an easier time learning, or were more motivated to learn. Skills like creativity and leadership, the article goes on to say, are slower to manifest themselves in a person's life, with the result being that an early "underachiever" might turn out to be someone of great intelligence and/or acclaim.
I am both a late bloomer and an adult beginner on the violin. I'm curious about other adult beginners, if they felt like they didn't have the skills or motivation in their youth, and that's why they didn't begin until late, or if it was a matter of circumstances not allowing it. I'm also curious about those here who consider themselves late bloomers. Was playing the violin always relatively the same experience, or one day after several years of uninspired trying, did it "explode" into significance?
Here's my blog on the subject - would love to hear your comments and thoughts, either here or there: www.violinist.com/blog/Terez/20092/9796/. And here is a link to the Psychology Today article, "Confessions of a Late Bloomer," by Scott Barry Kaufman. www.psychologytoday.com/articles/index.php . Great article.
Lastly, here is a list of names from Wikipedia on late bloomers of note. Always fun to hear about these; got any to add to the list?
*Rodney Dangerfield was an actor/comedian who didn't really start until he was 42. He had done clubs when he was younger, but stopped in order to work as a salesman. *Colonel Sanders began his franchise in his sixties. *Japanese dancer and choreographer Kazuo Ohno did not undertake formal dance lessons until his late twenties and was 43 years old when he performed his first recital at Kanda Kyoritsu Hall in Tokyo in 1949. * Anton Bruckner is a rare example of a musical late bloomer. Although he played church organ some in his twenties he did not become a composer until his 40s. * Andrea Bocelli was a lawyer, who did not release his first album until he was 34. * Laura Ingalls Wilder became a columnist in her forties, but did not publish her first novel in the Little House series of children's books until her sixties.
*Rodney Dangerfield was an actor/comedian who didn't really start until he was 42. He had done clubs when he was younger, but stopped in order to work as a salesman.
*Colonel Sanders began his franchise in his sixties.
*Japanese dancer and choreographer Kazuo Ohno did not undertake formal dance lessons until his late twenties and was 43 years old when he performed his first recital at Kanda Kyoritsu Hall in Tokyo in 1949.
* Anton Bruckner is a rare example of a musical late bloomer. Although he played church organ some in his twenties he did not become a composer until his 40s.
* Andrea Bocelli was a lawyer, who did not release his first album until he was 34.
* Laura Ingalls Wilder became a columnist in her forties, but did not publish her first novel in the Little House series of children's books until her sixties.
Sharelle, I just LOVED reading what you wrote. In fact I've come back with a glass of wine and reread it. Dang, what a story. Especially the last bit, as my son is about to turn ten, and I'm thinking, "Whoa. A ten-yr-old can do all THAT? I honestly believe some kids are wired for that kind of leadership ability and skills. And hey, the article brings up just that, doesn't it?
Do you ever pause to give yourself a giant pat on the back? If not, stop what you're doing and do it right now.
Go ahead. I'm watching. : )
I love this story - any others out there feel like sharing?
And Sharelle - I'm still watching and you STILL haven't reached around and patted yourself on the back. ((Commence eerie Twilight Zone music...))
I've had much more motivation as an adult than I ever did as a child to pursue my viola studies. Mostly for my personaly mental sanity. But where that part-time passion has taken me has been amazing. I don't think I'd would have ever gotten to where I am now as an adult if it wasn't for my life experiences. I'm lucky to have started when I was young, so catching up hasn't been too difficult, even if I'm behind my peers so to speak.
If you send me your personal e-mail address, I can send you a recording of my latest. It sill makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Mendy - well put, and you're right, you're lucky to have the muscle memory of youth to combine with the motivation of adulthood. Karen A. said something similar over at my blog. And hey, why not post your newest recording here at v.com so we can all hear it? I see you have something uploaded here already - off I go to listen to it!
Very interesting question!
I probably fall into that 'late-bloomer' category to some extent. I am not musically gifted in any way, shape or form. Every note I play well is the result of struggle and hard work. However I was interested in music from an early age. What I REALLY wanted to play when I was little was the piano. However, that was out of the question. My family had no money for a piano or for lessons. I was very jealous of my classmates that were able to learn - and frustrated because none of them wanted to take piano lessons!
In Grade 5 our school offered 'free' violins and lessons. Desparate, I signed up. I learned to play the violin, but needed more than what group lessons offered. I needed individual instruction. But we couldn't afford those either. I was lucky in that my mother defied my father's wishes and purchased me my own violin for Jr. High so I could continue in orchestra.
By Grade 9, our string section had deteriorated to 3 people; me - on the violin, a cello and a bass. I was now obligated to play music I technically couldn't play. The teacher was frustrated with me. I asked my parents for lessons again. They said I wasn't very good, so didn't see the point of getting me lessons at that point. So I quit. No other option.
Afterwards, I kept up my basic skills ( first position, no 4th finger) , playing for my own enjoyment.
Then (still desparate to play something) I took up the mandolin whenI was 20. No chording, just plucking. Played in a couple of basic ensembles. No skill development. However, I think the fretting helped me really understand finger placement and intonation.
In 2000 and '02 I took two music classes in University - one in history, one in the music theory. Loved it!
In 2003 I took up the violin again (age 42). Went for lessons for the first time. Found out immediately that the violin my poor mother had 'fought' to buy for me was a total dud. It's dead. No wonder I couldn't improve with it - or even hear what I was supposed to be hearing.
I quickly purchased a decent violin - made a HUGE difference.
Today I play 2nd in a community orchestra. I am a very poor player (by professional standards), but am improving so I perservere. I'm not taking lessons at the moment, but am working on technique (lots to try to get better at before I go back for more lessons). I can now use my 4th finger without thinking about it! Woohoo! I can shift to 1/2, 2nd and third with reasonable accuracy most of the time. Am currently working on finding my place in 4th and 5th on the E string since that's what my rep requires. Vibrato is emerging, but is inconsistant so I don't bother for most of the orchestral work.
Although I realize I never would've been a top-level musician even if I had had lessons from the start, I still wonder how much easier it would be for me now if I had had lessons on a decent instrument as a child.
My three kids all had music lessons. The two boys quit (both had piano lessons, then saxophone and trombone), but my daughter (started at age 4) is working on her Grade 9 RCM exam this year in piano and plays oboe in our community orchestra (and plays it well). She's managed to get to where I wanted to be at her age.
In the meantime, I'm also learning viola (still struggling with reading the c-clef to speed) and soprano saxophone (planning on joining a beginner band this fall). I also played along with my kids' piano lessons when they were learning, and can play easy material to the Grade 3 level.
The piano has been a major aid to my understanding musical concepts, because I was able to 'see' it all laid out before me, whereas it was a bit of mystery until that point.
Most frustrating for me is how slowly I'm improving.
I am 56 and bought a violin on Ebay for my birthday 3 weeks ago. I am attempting to teach myself and could play Mary Had a Little Lamb on Day two. I cannot read music so I am learning that too. My Ebay violin needed repairs (foolishly unexpected) when I received it and I was forced to look locally for repair shop. I immediately struck up a friendship with the owner, Yanbing Chen, of Cleveland Violins and worked out a professional trade for repairs, a new bow, and soft case. I want to put in a giant plug for this man and his shop.
I wanted to play something when I was young but we did not have the money available. I grew up poor in a small Ohio town, but the great thing is that I did not know I was poor until someone told me after graduation. I did not go to college because it was never on the table as an option. I was led to graduate from High School, get the diploma and get a job in a factory for the rest of my life. Well the economy of the 70's, 80's, 90's & 00's changed that modest goal into an ever changing job hunt every few years due to business closings. Each job was an increase in responsibility, I continued my love for reading and learning, not in a classroom but on my own in the basement of our Carnegie Library or in the volumes of books I purchased at yard or garage sales and used bookstores. One factory union job I had in the 70's would only allow me to actually work up to my capabilities for 4 hours a day, the rest was spent reading and studying a Home Electronics course.
Over the years I worked hard and studied hard to learn, learn and learn more. I have worked in factories, retail electronics, wholesale electrical, industrial outside sales, newspaper advertising, as a pizza & beer waiter, delivery driver, bakery manager, editor to a children's arts newspaper, assistant visual arts coordinator, painter, poet, creative writer (screenplay "Weehawken Heights" the true story of Aaron Burr), industrial product manager, corporate marketing manager, freelance technical writer, deputy political campaign manager (twice), national co-director of marketing and advertising for a Presidential Primary candidate, Web-developer, freelance marketing and business consultant and now national chapter development coordinator for ReachtheChildren.org - this and more without one day of formal schooling after high school (which I found unchallenging and so goofed off making my own blend of comedy). Just self-study and a surreal curiosity.
Now I want to play the violin and I find it wonderful.
I teach adult beginners, and I love reading your stories. Keep them coming!
I'm enjoying reading them too; each one is unique and fascinating. Thanks, all! Hope the stories keep coming.
OK, another adult beginner story.
My father was in the Air Force during my entire unmarried life, and we moved frequently, often every few months in the younger years. I once counted it up, and I think I went to more schools than I did grades of school. Because of this, there was a lot of alone time, as far as peer relationships.... I was always the new girl in town, or moving to a place where I knew no one.
My parents were raised, both of them, in unusual home situations. My mothers mother died when she was 7 and she and her siblings were farmed out of various relatives (poor relatives) who didn't want them. My mom had a job in the 'muck fields' of Ohio when she was just 9 years old, and worked the rest of her childhood, and dropped out of school in 9th grade. My father was raised by two deaf-mute parents. His siblings taught him to speak. Dad dropped out of school at age 18 and joined the Air Force.
Considering their backgrounds, looking back, I still find it remarkable how important books were in our home. From the earliest days, my parents made room in their extremely meager budget for the purchase of books for me...I had all the Dr. Suess books, and could read well before starting school. As years went on and we got older, one of the first things we did with each move, was find the local library. I remember going to the library every Saturday as a 9 yr. old living in Peru, Indiana, and having the librarian tell me that I was about finished with everything in the childrens room, and would need to move into the 'big' room.
It was at this same home that my first exposure to music came about. We had moved to Indiana just after Christmas in 1967, when my dad returned from a year and a half assignment in Thailand. I was in 4th grade. One of the first things that I discovered in my new school was that the students there were all playing Flutophones, and had been doing so for a few months. I, of course, was clueless...had never had a music class before that that I remember.... and had never seen a flutophone. My teacher sent me home with an instrument and a book....I still remember running up the stairs in the new house to show my parents. I was so excited. I remember sitting on my bed, and tryiing to figure out the fingerings on my own.
The next day I showed my teacher what I had done, and she (Bless Her!) took the time to correct the way that I was reading the fingering chart. I took it home again, and the next thing I knew, I had caught up with my peers and could play anything I wanted.
(Thinking back on this all now, I'm struck again by what a huge difference was made in my life by the small actions of a couple of teachers along the way....)
At the end of the year, I was identified as a student who had musical aptitude, and was encouraged to join band in 5th grade. (Note: I never even saw a stringed instrument other than a bass until I was an adult. My circles were all band schools). I began clarinet, a plastic Bundy that my grandfather bought for me, and became very good at it. I have a memory of moving to another house (new city, new school) in Indiana, and playing my clarinet on the front lawn of my new home as we moved in. I guess even then, it had become something that I identified myself with.
Sometime around here, i began asking for piano lessons, and was told that there was just no money for it. And this was true, I know. As I look back, and take my parents backgrounds into account, I realize what an anomaly I was to them....neither of them had had any sort of music in their backgrounds whatsoever, and had no concept of music education for kids. I feel grateful that I was encouraged to the degree that I was....they really didn't know where this musician-person had come from, and no experience with it at any level. Having said all that, had my parents known the path my life was to take, I know they would have MADE the piano lessons happen.
As it went on, we moved to Spain for 4 years where we lived in a 2nd floor walk-up apt. There was to be no piano in this situation, though I asked with regularity. At that time, the military paid a certain housing stipend per month. Many families lived in the base housing, but my dad decided to save money by living in a little town a few miles from the base. This allowed him to save money from each housing stipend, which he put away. This represented a bit of a hardship for us kids, as we didn't initially speak the language, and had no phone, television or peers close by. We used to beg to be moved onto base housing, but dad persisted, feeling that it was a better decision for the family. This tended to drive me even more into books....we would take a trip to the base every payday (2x a month), and visit the library, where we would check out literally stacks of books. My mom was a voracious reader like me, and my sister began the same habits as well. WE would also visit the little comic book store, and once a month or so get quite a few new comics....Superman, Hulk, etc. :)
(I'm struck again, writing this, by my parents commitment to reading, since at that time, none of them even had a HS diploma).
When time came for us each to move back to the States Dad rewarded us kids for the 'hardship' of living away from our peers. Each of us was to pick something that we would like to do/buy/have once we got back. I chose a piano and lessons. I was almost 16 at the time.
Having gotten this far, where I realize that I have only laid the foundation for the adult beginner thing, I've decided to put this in my blog, lest it be almost novel length. If you've read this far and are inclined to follow the story, I'll complete it and post it in the blog shortly. I apologize for the teaser, but didn't realize when I began writing, how involved the 'adult beginner' thing is.
here is another look at greatness...it is pretty bad to be great:)
Dottie - what a story! Wow, such an interesting background you (and your parents) had.
Al, thanks for the link - it looks like a great read.
I'm an adult beginner, so I fit at least part of the description.
I'll tell you if there is a correlation when I have enough data, but at this point, I'm still only 55, so I don't know if I'm a late bloomer yet... I have to wait until I get there.
my name is ken barry and at the age of 80 i decided to re-learn the violin. i played from the 3rd grade through high school and did pretty well. after 4 years in the navy i found i had lost any skills i once had. I did play the bass in jazz groups until i was 75 and loved it.
so, i dug out my old method books, yellow with age and scotch-ta ped them together. (my mazas books cost $1.00 in the 1930's) I practice every day for an hour or more and am making progress - but slowly. i have some physical limitations that go with my age, but i approach it with more thought than i did when young.
I should have started this years ago. i LOVE doing it. beats crosswords or soduko any day.
Wow, Kenneth, you are really cool and let my tell you that many would not have this energy and conviction at 80! GOOD luck and long life to you! I find it fantastic to hear stories like this! CONGRATULATIONS!
>my name is ken barry and at the age of 80 i decided to re-learn the violin.
This is just the greatest line - you should be a spokesperson for the adult beginner (wait - you'd be a "re-beginner") cause. So great to hear your story. Welcome back to the fold!
>I'm still only 55, so I don't know if I'm a late bloomer yet... I have to wait until I get there.
Roland - just loved this line as well. : )
I have read numerous articles and discussed with some professionals the phenom of why some really disadvantaged kids do well despite all odds. Where does the motivation come from after doing chores and raising siblings etc.. For example, if a child looses a parent, they work hard to make the remaining parent proud and not to give them anything else to be sad about. So kids who become super achievers are sometimes doing it out of pity at watching others in their family suffer from poverty, loss, other kids who are trouble and bringing dishonour to the family, etc. The kid over rides their natural temperment to achieve for a purpose beyond themselves, sometimes at very advanced levels.
Yet another late beginner story. It seems I am not alone, and not the oldest either. I started violin 18 months ago at 63. But back to the begining first.
In my youth I was taught piano, and got as far as being able to repeat harmonic and melodic minor scales, but not playing easily or happily. I found out more about music from physics than from the school's music deaprtment. At about 16 I abandoned playing the piano for the, then, much more intersting world of physics and Civil Engineering. I continued singing in local choirs for a year or two, the dropped that as well.
Many years later I joined my wife in going English country dancing - this is England, where the words mean something a bit wider that they do in America - and got hooked by the rythms, learned to perform and to call the dances for others. Now , thirty years later, we have a grandson in the USA and visit (american) English and Contra dance clubs when we visit. We also go to dance festivals, including one held every August in the town of Whitby in England, for the dancing and to meet friends made over the years. At this festival in 2007 I astonished my wife by saying I would do sometjhing quite different this time - and went to the 'absolute beginners' fiddle class. There were 43 of us, many sharing borrowed instruments, and ably led by a young lady player from one of the bands. I was hooked. A week later I bought a violin in Birmingham (where I live) and have been getting slowly better, with regular lessons, ever since. Being retired, plenty of time is always available for practice.
It is a matter of teaching muscles to do thingsd they are not used to. The rythm and much of the folk repertoire is already in my mind after dancing for 30 years, as is basic reading music remaining from my youth. But it is such fun being able to create something like the tunes I have been hearing all these years. I am gradually getting more confident, including using 3rd and 5th positions when the tune is easier that way (or the teacher says so!), and 7th for some scales, and different bowings but not yet tried vibrato. Being able to play at the speed required for the dances is still out reach (except for some waltzs) while retaining anything like a reasonable tone, or without too many screeches from touching the wrong string, or getting lost.. But I am working on it and it gradually gets easier.
I had a lot of trouble getting my left hand to relax. That seems to be on the mend now that I have followed some advice and moved the fiddle up the shoulder. I made (yes, made, I also do some woodcarving) a much taller chin rest and put it on the E string side of the fiddle. My left eye looks straight down the A string. My head is upright, the fiddle stays in place with very little or no no chin pressure, and playing without a shoulder rest is quite possible, but uncomfortable as the violin body rubs against the collar bone. It is easier and more comfortable with the shoulder rest. My left elbow is now far enough under the body to let my fingers reach without serious straining. All of a sudden a quicker pace was possible, and shifting became easier.
I go along to the fiddle workshops at dance festivals, and to a monthly folk dance band practice. They put up with my efforts and are very encouraging while I sometimes resort to only playing the first and secondary beats in each bar when I can't keep up the speed. How much I can manage tells me how I am doing.
So there it is. I hope my experience is helpful to others following the same path.
Hi everyone. I’m brand new and hope you don’t mind a newbie chiming in on this topic. I’m in my mid 30’s and have yet to be able to find the time to learn this amazing instrument. I bought my violin over three years ago and it sits and waits for me in my bedroom closet.
I think this Spring I'll have to bring her out and give her a try, as I've asked my eleven year old (daughter) if she minds taking lessons with her fuddy-duddy mom. She told me she's excited to do this with me, so I think I've just locked myself into a binding contract. I don't know which one of us is more excited about it. I suppose the answer is yes!
I would like to put in my 2 cents. I am not sure if I am considered a late bloomer or not, but I certainly qualify as an adult beginner. I had about 2 years piano lessons when I was 5, and sang in the university chorus for a year trying to get a minor in music. But that was the last time I was really involved with music until last year.
I got inspired to learn the violin after watching two japanese drama. The first one is Nodame Cantabile (about students at a conservatory, really entertaining). One of the character carries a red fiber glass violin case on his back and I thought it was the coolest thing, I would like one except that I don't play the violin. He played Beethoven's Spring sonata for his exam and I was very impressed, i never really pay that much attention to violin music.
I watched another drama, a violinist lost her hearing, in the opening scene , she was playing the rondeau and gavotte from Bach Partita in E Maj, and I immediately got a violin and a teacher.
I enjoy this so much better than the piano. I learned so much more about music through learning the violin (well, i was 5, i doubt it's any use to teach me theory at such young age). I liked the idea that I can play with others alot more often. I started playing in a community orchestra and I still do, enjoying every rehearsals!!
I will also start to buy lottery tickets hoping I won't have to work and can play violin all day long, perhaps pick up cello?!
I'm so enjoying these stories! And Kate, welcome, welcome, and hope to hear in a few months' time that you've dived in. Playing the violin is a great (and engrossing) adults' hobby! A great sanity saver, many a time.
actually the pattern is recursive. Insanity, sanity, insanity.
In truth, the sanity part is overrated.
It's a misconception about Anton Bruckner that he didn't start composing until he was in his 40s. He wrote much music for voice and organ in his early years (he was also a great improvisor on the organ -- World class). His first works date from the mid 1830s when he was not even a teenager. It's true, though, that his great works were of his adult years.
Sanity is the refuge of those who have chosen not to exceed their limits. Use it as a launch point, not a goal.
one I@ve always been fond of....
The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.
Buri, I've read that in the U.S. depression is the second most common illness. Number one is the common cold. It has been estimated that about 14% of the population will have at least one serious bout of depression.
Hey Buri, that means that as a population, Aussies are actually less crazy than yanks. Our stats are 1 in 5. Thankfully, I can consider myself safe since just about everyone I know is mad. (ignore the fact that I worked for nearly a decade in acute mental health settings, so my circle of acquaintances is somewhat ... skewed. and that my son rides horses, because everyone knows that any adult who remains involved in equestrian sport by choice is mad)
>Sanity is the refuge of those who have chosen not to exceed their limits. Use it as a launch point, not a goal.>
How very true that statement is. My past few weeks have proven this point.
lol Buri! Fortunately, don't forget that if you want to have friends, you must be a friend yourself so you must be safe...
At 49 and going through a few personal problems, I felt I needed something to hold onto and that would help me grow and be a part of me and mine to share at some point. I have always like music but was never given the push or the opportunity and drive to see if it was something I had in me or not at a younger age.
So when I found the old family violin I had it repaired enough to make it playable. It still could use more work but for now it is better than my abilities to play so it is fine.... I play for me and hope that at some point to be good enough to play for others and share in the joy of a well played Violin, it will be some time yet . I have just under a year of lessons and practice with life at this point is not what it should be but I keep trying and enjoy my small steps of progress ….
Love your story, William. : )
I am an adult beginner, but doubt anyone would consider me a late bloomer. I played the piano for many years as a kid, but never exceptionally well. I have learned since playing the violin (started 4 years ago at 40) that I have tiny hands. My hand size probably affected my piano playing, and I did not have the kind of teacher that would encourage me to adapt my playing to help with the stretches between notes. I probably could have practiced more, too.
Now, I practice religiously every day, but work and family commitments leave me less time than I would like. I also have a wonderful teacher who does help me deal with my hand size issues - he doesn't let me use it as an excuse but does help me find non-standard ways to play. I should mention that I am 5'1" and play a 3/4 violin. Multiple joint issues and small hands necessitate the smaller violin, and I still can't make the some of the stretches between notes without lifting my first finger. I just "shift" more often than others!
I started with my daughter in Suzuki, and we both still play. It's a joy to do this with her.
I love reading everyone's stories. I see bits of myself and my students in them. I have two very short stories about two of my adult beginners on part of my website, http://mysite.verizon.net/paulinefiddle/ab.html . Please check it out.
Ann - enjoyed reading about your experience and Pauline, off I go to check out your site.
Okay, back after reading the stories, Pauline. I especially liked this line:
"Other people told her that she was crazy to start playing the violin as an adult because it just wouldn't work."
That's just hilarious, those ppl's thoughts. "Work?" What is there to "work"? In my mind, it's the simplest thing, being an adult beginner. You want to play this instrument, you pick it up and begin to play. Granted, the sounds that come out might not be initially pleasing to others, but I remember feeling just thrilled, quite early on, to be playing a tune, to have it wake up my muse, to be a part of this music making. This thrill in taking these steps, albeit baby ones, toward something so big, deemed "impossible" by others.
Silly people. If only they knew how easy it was to pursue one's lifelong dreams. I've never really understood ppl who would prefer to go to their graves thinking "if only..." rather than take those first fledgling steps.
There seems to be two distinct attitudes towards learning something new.
1. Go ahead - try it. You might like it. If it doesn't amount to anything, at least the experience will be worth it.
While this isn't the best approach for those that habitually start and never finish anything (they need to learn to stick something out) - overall I think you should go ahead and try new stuff if you really want to. Who's to say you won't take it further? Not to mention that learning any new skills is great!
2. Don't try it! Odds are you won't be good enough to make it to the top, so trying is a waste of time.
I've found that with the violin, there IS an inherent snobbiness. It seems that many hold the opinion that if you're not good enough to compete with the best, you're wasting your time. Hello? We can't possibly ALL be the best. Someone needs to be content to be in the background - otherwise who will provide the bodies needed to fill out an orchestra or other large ensemble?
I also wish it would be easier to find beginning ensembles who just get together for the fun of having a jam session. The more you play with other people the better you get. This practice of isolating individuals while they're learning is counterproductive. It's easier with children, but with adults? Very difficult for many to find 'fun' groups to play with (part of the issue being the difficulty of finding appropriate music).
LOL...yours is a special case Don. I'm sure your wife approves! ;)
I have had the same experience as N.A. There is a school of thought that holds that if you aren't world class or close it's a waste of time to do anything. It's an extreme distortion of the generally worthwhile idea that "if something is worth doing it's worth doing well." The attitude is not limited to violin by any means, but it does seem to be more visible there than in some other areas of endeavor. And it goes all the way down to kids in schools who are steered (or weeded) out of music education if they are perceived as being not "dedicated" or "talented" or "motivated" enough. I think the attitude contributes to the perception of elitism in classical music and is a reason why the general public is less inclined to embrace classical music than it might otherwise be.
Reading all of these posts has encouraged me as I embark on a new quest :o) I've decided to pursue the violin after so many years of wanting to ... I will soon turn 44.
Here's a bit of history for those who may be interested :o)
The youngest of 6 children, I grew up in a housing project in Boston, MA - a predominantly Irish neighborhood (and I mean really predominant - probably 95%). It's funny, but now that I look back, I definitely remember hearing tons of Irish music as a kid (something that seems to have come full circle now - you'll see further down). My mother played piano beautifully (the rumor was that she could have been a concert pianist but gave up that idea when she began having children) - we always had a piano in the house and it was played often (my mom, who is now 76, no longer plays - that is a travesty). My father played bugle in a drum and bugle corps, and I have the fondest memories of traveling with him to competitions and parades and such. Music was important in our home, but private lessons could not even be considered at that time. I remember taking piano for 2 weeks in 5th grade (offered in school) - I started with a simple book and got terribly bored because I already knew where middle 'c' was ;o) so I quit. I'm still not sure why my mother didn't press the issue... hmmm think I'll be makin a phone call later :o)
Anyway, I turned my attention to singing. Choral music, broadway, etc. I couldn't get enough of classics on pbs - I never thought this was weird even though my peers were definitely not into it - it was such a natural thing in my house. I would have liked to take the violin, but it was not offered in school, so it was never discussed! Soooo, from about 10 - 14 I focused on singing, did some musical theater and loved it ((for 5 years (ages 13 - 17) went to acting school during the summer - on scholarship of course lol))
At about the 9th and 10th grade the high school I was attending cut ALL music & drama programs due to budget restraints - yikes! No chorus, no folk group, no drama - just difficult academics - ugh anyway, the brief version is that I started getting into trouble and was politely asked to leave that school. ;o) That was actually the best thing that could have happened. The high school I attended for my last two years, though it was a public school, had it's own music wing - YAHOO!! Kind of like a mini high school for performing arts within the school. I can see now that it was the hand of God protecting me from myself (I had started drinking and doing drugs in my previous school) - I now had something to focus on that interested me. Also, because of the strict academic standards of my previous school, I was pretty close to having all of the credits I needed- I just needed to fill time basically; my senior year looked something like this: drama, drama, computers, piano, lunch, english, chorus, piano (I had a friend who played the violin at this time and I wanted to learn, but for some reason thought it would be too difficult at that point - go figure).
So I graduated, went to Northeastern as a voice major (it's an engineering school but I was on scholarship - there were a total of 5 music majors including me lol) dropped out after 2 years - dumb - absolutely, but again, now I can see God's hand at work but that's another long story. Fast forward through the years - married with kids - playing keys, guitar, and singing in various bands..... now the kids are wanting to play instruments....hmmm ok
Here is where the violin re enters my life :o) I have 2 kids - 2 beautiful, witty, sometimes difficult, creative, amazing, sometimes stubborn, awesome daughters. Incredibly different people! We homeschool so I have the awesome privilege of being with them often. Older daughter (16 now) just has that musical gift that can only be given by God - you know what I'm talking about - picks up any instrument and learns to play seemingly effortlessly. Took piano for a year when she was 7 - did well but had some issues with a teacher who wanted to push her all the way to Carnegie Hall; at that age my daughter just loved music for the love of music. Stuck it out for a year and it kind of soured her from lessons. At age 10 she begged to take guitar and hasn't looked back - that is definitely her first instrument. The funny thing is, as she progressed on the guitar (with a phenomenal teacher), the desire to play piano came back - she doesn't read music very well, but has a great ear and can play some Mozart, Brahms, Pachabel, etc. on the keys. Sings well. She picked up the drums too. She loves everything from metal to jazz to classical to big band to broadway to opera (we caught le Fille du Regiment with Natalie Dessay on pbs the other day - wow! but I digress). Anyway, you get the idea..... Younger daughter (14 now) incredibly gifted academically. Reads tons of books every day for fun (some important, some just for fluff). Great sense of humor and very quick witted. Loves all types of music as well, has a beautiful singing voice. Started asking for violin lessons about 4 years ago - at the time we couldn't really afford it, and someone was offering piano lessons for cheap (we have a piano) - so I said "Let's try piano honey!" She stuck it out for a year - it really wasn't her thing lol She asked for violin lessons again. Ok, this is where the 'what was I thinking' balloon pops over my head, but I said 'gee honey, why don't you try drums??' don't ask that lasted about 4 agonizing months of her not really wanting to play and me carting her over to church to practice. Keep in mind that during all of this, her sister is playing everything very well...
Sooooooo, my husband and I decided that maybe it was time to let her try the violin (duh). We searched for, and found a great teacher. I did some reasearch and found a decent student violin that didn't overwhelm the budget (that was her Christmas present in '07) and she actually paid for the first 8 lessons with money that she had saved up (that's how badly she wanted to learn). I made a stipulation that my older daughter was not allowed to go within 5 feet of the violin for the first year :o) Could you imagine how my younger one would feel if she's working so hard, with lessons, and sis just picks it up and plays...... so we felt it was best to give her a cushion to get ahead. Well, fast forward a little over a year to now... my 14 yo has been playing for about 15 months now and loves it! She especially loves Irish tunes, along with classical (right now she loves Janine Jansen and David Garrett) - she has great intonation and her teacher loves her because she practices daily :o) I don't have to bug her to practice - always a good sign. A few weeks ago, she played for the first time at a teen night at church - quite an accomplishment for a kid who loves to play but does not love to be in the limelight. Now here is where I come back in...
We are part of a fiddle group that meets once a week and plays,... well..., fiddle tunes! LOL We joined in November and my daughter is learning new tunes everyday (along with her regular lessons). My older daughter is playing rhythm guitar for the group, and I'm .... well... just sitting there every week... hmmmm sooooo I've decided that it's time - at long last - for me to learn to fiddle! (I'd like to learn classical too) So, since my birthday is coming soon, my hubby bought me a violin (well, I picked it... he paid for it lol) yes, I bought it on ebay - it will arrive this week. I didn't spend much because I want to see how committed I truly am before upgrading (besides, we'd like to upgrade my daughter's violin first). If it sounds better than her student violin I will give it to my daughter and I will use her current violin :o) I can't really do weekly lessons at the moment, but I sit in on my daughter's lessons and glean what I can. I'm looking forward to this adventure....
Hope I didn't bore anyone to tears!
Not at all! I'll be looking forward to hearing how the eBay violin pans out and how your lessons go! Good luck!
Hello! This is my first post here and I suspect this would be the best place to start.
My story is that I was a trumpet player in high school but flunked out of music college immediately and went to tech school to learn a trade. Eighteen years later I started playing trumpet again and realized that as an adult I had a much better work ethic and ability to focus than I had as a teen (that's just me, not saying that about other teens). Within a year I was playing in community orchestras and a little later getting paying gigs.
Practicing trumpet requires a lot of resting time during the sessions so I figured I would just get a non-wind instrument to play while resting my chops. I've always loved the viola and the director of one of my orchestras owns a violin shop so I went to see him. He rented a nice instrument to me and suggested a local Suzuki teacher.
Since starting at Christmas I have really fallen in love with viola playing. I'm only half-way through Book 2 but I get a little better every day and that's how I approached the trumpet, with lots of patience. After a month or so. looking back on improvement is a real confidence boost.
The only problem is putting the viola down and getting back to my bread-winning instrument!
I would really like to develop enough to play in the community groups and would also like to make some cash doing it too, but I know that's a couple years down the road.
My teacher enjoys teaching adults as well as children so the lessons are a real pleasure. I don't get bogged down in gear-head stuff, so I don't focus much at all on the instrument and such. Although I did just get a new chin rest to make it easier to play.
I will post a little more later about how being an adult beginner works for me. But now must get back to work. Thanks for a good, no nonsense site!
wow...loved those last posts. It inspires me to get back to my blog :).
Welcome, newcomers. It's a good place..
I just started a couple months ago, at the age of 24.
I had always wanted to learn violin when I was younger, but a.) my family was quite poor, wouldn't have been able to afford the instrument or the lessons, and b.) I was way busier than any teenager has any business being.
Both my mother and my fathe were professional musicians for a very long time, and holding them up to be the standard, I never really figured I had much musical talent. When I was little (between 7-10) I could play piano by ear fairly decently, well enough anyway that my father would put me into his recordings when I'd just play along with whatever he was belting out on guitar. Was in a couple of school bands, but they didn't really have instruments that interested me. Being a very small town in the middle of nowhere, options were limited.
But now I was able to afford a seemingly decent electric violin, and weekly lessons to boot. I'm learning much faster than I ever thought I would, especially since it's on a 5-string. Makes me wish I had started earlier.
Better late than never!
(double post, forum error :P )
This has been very interesting to me, and it hits close to home. I started playing around 7 to 8 months ago, and started out with first two to three months self taught, but a little more information on the beginning. When i was in about 3rd grade to 5 grade, I was taking piano lessons, but wasn't really a passion of mine. Went in one ear and went out the other, and I feel regretful of my inambition as a child. I didn't really remember much, I then learned to play the saxophone in middle school but again, I don't remember anything from that and I did the bare minimum for school band. In about the 5th grade I got into my music teachers stash of violins and played a violin and was absolutely intrigued by it. She caught me and told me to put that away. So from then on, I think I was set to play the violin. Then one day around 10 years later at the ripe age of 19, my girlfriends mother brought me to a general music shop and I bought my first violin as terrible as it was and named it Amadeus. The previous year I was quite the underage drinker, and even contemplated suicide. The violin has been a turning point in my life and could be a landmark for my life, and is very much a instrument of my success, but credit given to God. From there on it has been a wonderful experience, I then 2 months later bought a violin from a violin shop for 600, and it really helped out, I excelled in Bach and continued to stay with bach, I then 2 months later bought a wonderful neuner and hornsteiner violin for $1750 and a nice bow, and that has been one of the greatest choices in my violin playing career as short as it is. I worked on the bach cello suite no.1 which I uploaded onto youtube in my 4th month of playing, as well as a video of one month when I started. Now I am in my 7th month and working on works by Tchaikovsky, vivaldi, suzuki book 5 now, more Bach. Also have had one college audition for a performance major, and have worked on the back partita no.2 allemande, sarabande, tchakovsky concerto no 1 first page, and things are going great, I have been playing in the community orchestra for 4 months, vibrato is doing great, third position is comfortable as well as a little 4th and 5th. I was even offered a spot in the local orchestra if I was available. I am so thankful to be able to play the violin, and what it has to offer to my life. As well as how it has been an instrument of my success.
My past with music, if anyone cares to read :)
I just started violin in January, a week before my 20th birthday actually. I started out with piano when I was 4, but after a string of bad teachers and lack of discipline on my part, I eventually quit for 6 yrs when we couldn't afford lessons any more. When I got to college, I began taking piano lessons again and made exponential progress (it seemed that way to me at least) thanks to a wonderful professor who showed me that playing music goes way beyond just note reading. I became obsessed with classical music, took up the violin as a second instrument, and switched major from biochemistry to music (probably the weirdest 180 ever). Music is really godsend for me.
Not too sure about the biology as much as the psychology/motivation that plays a big role in the progress of late bloomers. Most kids take music lessons because their parents want them to so there's not much initiative there, but when adults decide to do it, at least there's an initiative on their part. And plus, they're paying for lesson out of their own pocket so there's a sting there. I have to work a second job to afford lessons, but that just pushes me to work harder so to not waste money.
Wow, what fun to show up after some time away from this forum and see all these new replies. Enjoyed reading each and every new story - thanks, folks, for taking the time to share them. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's gobbled them up.
This morning my son woke saying, "I want my violent music." The lines on my forehead creased as I squinted over at him.
"I want my violent music," he whined again.
"You want your violin music?" my wife offered.
"Twinkle, twinkle..." I muttered as I rolled out of bed and pressed the play button. Although I find Giles Apap a bit more entertaining, my son insists on the Suzuki violin CD which he listens to multiple times a day. I've tried expanding upon his exposure to violin music, but he protests that it's too noisy. I suppose for a 3 1/2 year old the four seasons played by Hillery Hahn may sound "too noisy."
My reading about the Suzuki method recommended that both the child and one parent should learn the violin and practice together. I was a little surprised when my wife agreed that we lease both a 1/16'th and a full size violin. What was even more surprising was how much I've enjoyed the lessons and practice sessions. That got me past the sticker shock when I was informed that the parent/child session price was actually per person.
We practice nearly every day when the sun starts its decent over the horizon. Leon insists on practicing 10 minutes, not 5 or 15 minutes. We use the kitchen timer to make sure we get it right, though sometimes I forget to start it at the beginning of practice. I practice for about 30 minutes or more. So far I've learned Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Hot Cross Buns, Mary had a little Lamb, and Old McDonald. I'm hoping to have a suitable repituar of fiddle songs to entertain our next child who is due this June. My wife reports that our daughter is already enjoying the music as evidence by her kicking. I'll have to ask if it's in time to the music yet.
My own background in music is fairly limited. In elementary school, I was required to take a music class. The trombone never seemed to produce the right sound. I was inclined to blame a dent in the instrument, the teacher blamed me. When the class was done, I was finished with music. Many years later after college, a friend convinced me to buy a guitar. I bought a book on how to play. The guitar and book have moved with me to sit in the closet ever since.
I suppose what I enjoy about the violin is its reputation for being difficult. I remember this being mentioned in the Young Sherlock Holmes movie. Practicing gives me a bit of time to myself to focus on overcoming this new challenge. It matters not whether I succeed or fail, only that I try. I get satisfaction from seeing that I have indeed improved.
Maybe someday I'll play the Devil's Trill. It sounds like it'd be a lot of fun.
Dave, you got the right philosophy! It is so great that you can support and understand (since you learn to play violin) your kids. Often, like in my case, my parents are really kind to pay for my lessons but the "emotional" or "understanding" aspects are not there. They just cannot understand my feelings and "violin" behaviours! It sometimes creates some tensions... Congratulations!
ps: yes the devil's trill sounds really nice and fun... when mastered! In the mean time you can enjoy the David's trill. (this is when you try to improvise the Devil's trill without actually having the score between the hands!) Don't worry, we all do this with our dream pieces we are too shy to ask our teacher to assing us... when we already know what will be the answer!
I am an adult beginner. Years ago, I used to listen to my daughter play her viola from school and whine about how she didn't like to practice. "I'll play with you," I said,"I love the sound of it."
However, my taking lessons was not what my daughter had in mind, and she voiced her concerns to my husband that if I played with her (or played at all) she would feel as though I was competing with her. I was told no....no viola for me. At least not at that time. So, I waited. And waited. And waited. Years went by.
The feeling I had stirring inside grew worse as time went by, and eventually I told both my husband and daughter that I wanted to play, and that was that. A week later, a package arrived in the mail, and I could tell by the shape what it was. But when I opened the case, I was shocked. "That's not a viola," I said.
"It's a violin," my husband said, "It LOOKS like a viola, so get used to it. I have an instructor lined up for you next month." That month seemed like the longest month of my life. When I first put bow to string in my lesson, it was like magic. I could not understand why my daughter was so tired of playing her viola. Apparently, she was not feeling the magic that I was - even though I was playing an instrument I originally did not choose, I nevertheless fell in love with it.
Two years into my violin lessons, my daughter quit the school orchestra. She did not care if I played her viola or not.
I have to say, I am now approaching the end of my third year on the violin and the end of my first year on viola. I feel like Harry Potter - surrounded by magic. Each instrument creates its own spell - its own world. My arms miss holding them if I am out of town or my job prevents me from my normal practice. I get grumpy if I am 'away' too long. After a long day or a bad day - they are the perfect antidote. I play when I'm happy. I play when I feel sad. I play when I'm tense, and each time, the magic works. I'll have to explain that another time, I suppose, but I feel so blessed to be among the ranks of older students who have experienced music at a later time in their lives.
Ann Marie,this is great!!! I just (personnally) find it is a kind of a "cheap shot" your family did to you... Why would it have bothered? This was not "competiton". But, now, it's over!
My sister also had a weird reaction when I had my first violin! She didn't want to play it, in fact, but she tried to learn it just because she didn't want me to become better than her on this instrument and look more "cool" . She used to hide it or took it litterally out of my hands. But it didn't last (two weeks only!). She got sick of it and begin to laugh at me saying I would end up a "poor" musician...
Families can react weirdly to the arrival of such instruments but in the end, only those who truly love them will end up playing because it is a demanding journey!
Best of luck in your violin!
David and Ann Marie (not to be confused with Anne-Marie!), I loved your stories!
This line cracked me up: "I want my violent music."
Hi Guys. Thank you for all these terrific stories. They are very motivating. I have always played music my whole life. I studied classical guitar as a kid, oboe and bassoon from 4th grade all the way through college. Since then I have tinkered around with piano and banjo for the intervening years.
I've always had fun with them, but never any real spark. Until one day ... <dramatic music>. My neighbor, who was a professional violinist, became ill in her later years. While she could still play some, her arthritic fingers couldn't quite tune up her instrument. So I would go over there a few times a week, tune up her violin for her and listen to her play. This went on for a little over a year. Then, sadly, she passed away from her illness at 78 years old. A few days later, there's a knock on my door. Her son was standing there holding the old violin and told me "Mom wanted you to have this".
And so, at ripe old age of 48, I acquired my first violin (and to date, only). After a few days of wondering what to do with the thing (selling it was never going to be an option), I took it out of its case, tuned it up, tightened up the bow, and put my first tentative hairs to string. Then something magic happened ... a light went on, rosin started coursing through my veins, the clouds parted and sunbeams streamed down from the heavens (OK maybe a little schmaltzy). No, I didn't start playing like Paganini (more like Paganini's 1 year old child), but I fell in love with playing the vioin. All these years I never really thought about playing a bowed string,. But now I can't get it out of my system. So I located a good teacher and have been happily sawing away for about a month now. No matter what is going on I pick it up every day, even if its only for 15 mintues. Every day I can see and feel progress. At the back of my mind I can't help but think that my dear neighbor and friend knew this would happen and that's why she left me her violin. I hope one day I will play well enough to make her proud.
Terez, I'm not sure where I fit in to this. I started playing violin at 9 in my school orchestra program in Seattle, but never had private lessons until I was an adult. Instead I had private lessons in voice as I sing well, so music certainly has not been foreign to me throughout my life. But I never had the opportunity to take violin lessons until age 37, after my husband had retired from the Air Force and we had settled in Kokomo, IN.
I won't say it's been easy. When I started lessons, I hadn't played in a long time, and I couldn't remember how to hold the bow! And learning to produce a good, warm sound has been complicated by MS and the problems that accompany it (tremors). But this is something I have wanted to pursue since I was a kid, and I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to do it. If I can get the tremor in my right hand under control, I might actually be a decent player. I just hope that I will play well enough to justify the faith that my teachers over the last 15 years have had in me. In any case, it's so much a part of who I am that no matter how far I go with it (or don't go), I love playing, and I will never give it up as long as I am physically able to play.
Steven what a nice story! Yes Laurie we all have dreams and we all hope they will come true. If only we could read the future!!!
I realised I want to master the violin [well get to a stage that I am incredibly happy with], but I don't want to become a peforming professional :)
Too much time....
Unless the pay was worth it.
Recently I've found a love for peforming... I think I'd feel guilty if I made money out of that :P
Steven and Laurie, your stories are so touching! Bravo to the both of you.
Does a late start correlate with prodigy? I wouldn't mind a bit! 62 and counting...
Finally found a teacher(on craigslist, no less!). Pity the neighbors;-)
Carol, yes. Rumor has it, the more advanced the age, the higher the prodigy potential. ; )
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine
February 28, 2009 at 12:36 AM ·
Lovely writing, Terez.
I feel I was a late bloomer, although with more of a gripe about it than yourself :( As a primary student I was constantly deflated by the lack of attention I received, because I always came 2nd.I really wanted attention for being clever. The thing was, I came 2nd in everything at once - I was therefore consistently (over years) the second most capable kid in maths, english, sciences, athletics, against an ever changing group of people who would come first in their one thing (and get the kudos, grr). But it didn't make me work harder, and by high school I didn't even bother going because I knew I could come 2nd without trying. I seemed to understand a lot more about a lot of stuff than my peers -as a cohort- but not as much as just one of them at a given time. I stuffed around hopelessly at uni, far too immature for commencing a BA Dip Ed, dropped out, restarted in archaelology, which I LOVED but didn't know if I could be bothered maintaining high distinction in archeology (which was easy to do) + the stuff that I had to do but didn't want to do, and eventually found my way into applied sciences. By then, with a baby born during second year of study, I wasn't so worried about grades as about how I understood and interpreted information. Most of the class was selective or private high school graduated girls, with very good brains, but I found I REALLY understood stuff. Some years later at a post grad seminar with a very admired leader in the field I had posed a few questions, and later was given feedback that the other participants hadn't actually gotten to the point of understanding that they could see there would be such questions, but it was a logical progression for me. So my late blooming brain has given me what I call my gestalt understanding - I can construct very quickly, a scaffold, and everything new that I learn about those things just neatly slots into the scaffold. And then a bit of a shift occurs in research/evidence and my scaffold is slightly rearranged and the information still fits somewhere. I didn't have that skill when I was younger, though I was considered bright enough for the runty kid from a struggling family it was only perceived as hanging around at the better end of average.
As for violin, my naivete was such that I thought violin lessons were only for those privileged children who had somehow been identified as gifted ( as I believed that kids who trained in swim squad were somehow identified as stars and selected), so it didn't occur to me to even want to play the violin. We didn't have the opportunity to learn music or play weekend sports, and for me I wasn't allowd to do things after school because mum was working and had to know I was safe at home. It was only when my son started to learn violin when he moved to a Steiner school, that I remembered I'd had an interest as a teen and a violin had been given to me - so I started too. I wouldn't say I'm a great learner, but I'm as good as most of the more competent kids who start learning around 10 and keep it up into their teens. So I'm pleased with that. It can become all engrossing, I think because it engages the intellect, the body and the spirit so intensely.
I identify well with the defensiveness and sense of unjustness portrayed in the article. Also the premise that perhaps some struggle is a good thing - our family had sincerely struggled for years after my dad died when I was an infant and I had older siblings up into their teens. Mum had no living immediate family and her supportive extended family was living in Western Australia and Victoria. My father's family were rich but odd and we were effectively left out, only to be tolerated at Christmas when we endured the embarrassment of lunch in a strange posh house with well dressed and well meaning but equally embarrassed strangers and a sense of social friction that I felt even as a 4 year old.
I was unusually self reliant, by 10 being in control of cleaning the house, doing the laundry, making meals during the week, and by 12 I planned the menu and did all of the family shopping as well. It stunted my social development - I had no idea how to mix or interact with my friends outside of the structure of school. I had no idea how to respond to normal adult male gruffness and affection. But I was great at living in my head and keeping a household. it just took a couple of decades to allow those few precocious skills I had to become one with a now more mature me.