I am a high school junior in rural South Carolina and have been playing violin since age seven, almost ten years. Due to the demise of our district’s strings program, I began playing flute in the band so as to have some musical experience in school. I am a competent flutist and have attained leadership status and many close friendships as a result of my participation in marching band, but have no further plans for flute after high school. I also sing in the chorus (I have a nice soprano voice) and contribute immensely to our theatre department, where I do both technical work and acting. These activities all provide a support network, whereas violin has been a largely solitary effort (most of my friends have never heard me play). I feel committed to violin since it has been a part of my life for so long, but lately I have begun to wonder if I really enjoy playing anymore.
I believe that my participation in a two-week summer academy at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities was one of the defining moments of my musical self. Before this experience, I simply played violin for my own pleasure. It was just something I did—I had no concept of competition. What I discovered over my (albeit short) course of study at SCGSAH was an pervasive sense of snobbery, competition, and favoritism among the strings players and faculty. These factors, in addition to a personality conflict with my violin instructor, have led to both a distaste for the atmosphere of the classical music world and a lingering sense of worthlessness as a player.
Conversely, my experience at SCGSAH opened my eyes to the possibility of exploring other genres (jazz, rock, fiddle, etc.). My parents bought me an electric violin, which I’ve fooled around on a bit, but there’s been no conclusive change of direction—my teacher is strictly classically trained, and we have had no luck in looking for a jazz instructor. I have nothing against classical music itself, but I feel that I am mediocre at best and do not physically have the time to practice as much as I need to due to family, church, and academic obligations. I long for my violin to be purely a source of pleasure for me—a laidback, no pressure, stress relieving, enjoyable part of my life.
I know that I will never be a concert violinist; a solo career is not my dream. My interest at the moment is music therapy, where I feel that I could combine my deep love for music and my desire to help others. However, to enter into a college program for music therapy, I will have to choose a principal instrument on which to audition and participate in a major ensemble each semester. I suppose violin is the obvious choice here, but I don’t want to be miserable if I truly do not enjoy classical music. I am terrified that playing violin in college will be as overwhelmingly negative as my experience at Governor’s School; but I were to quit, I would feel like my years of playing have been a waste of my time and my parents’ money, not to mention a huge disappointment to my lifelong teacher.
My parents emphasize that this must be my decision, that the only person I have to please is myself. I am torn. I know this probably all sounds ridiculous, but it has been a source of great stress and confusion for quite a while now, and no one else seems to understand. Feedback would be greatly appreciated!
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