Recovering from Injury: How to Begin ... Again

March 20, 2006 at 03:30 AM · I am a 17-year-old student violinist living in a small town in upstate NY. When I was thirteen I developed pain in my left wrist while playing the violin -- particularly in the higher positions and on the G string -- that doctors had called chronic tendonitis and/or a repetitive motion injury. My playing ability was severely curtailed due to the fact that I could not practice more than a half hour of relatively intermediate material without severe pain.

However, although nothing about my activities seems to have changed, my wrist is now not hurting at all when I play. I am not sure why this is but I am very grateful for it. Unfortunately, I am at a loss as to what to do now. I want to be a violinist -- major in violin performance, go to a reputable school, study with a teacher that can help me to be the kind of musician I've hoped to be, etc. but I fear I'm very far behind where I should be for these kinds of aspirations. Although I feel that I am not lacking in musicality, my technical ability is much lacking. Before I quit taking lessons altogether two years ago, I was working on Mozart's Concerto 4, and this is about the technical level I feel comfortable with, although even my rendition of this is somewhat messy. My sightreading ability is poor, and living where I do, I have never been able to associate with other serious student musicians.

I have an advantage in that I am ahead in school -- I will be graduating with a general studies degree from a local community college. At the end of May I will be finished with my studies there. I am not planning on attending college in the Fall of 2006 because I wasn't prepared to audition anywhere. I feel like I need to spend some time catching up, as much as I can, in order to be competitive for auditions in the Winter of 2007.

But I don't know where to begin. I know that I need to find a teacher who can evaluate and adjust the way that I play and help me not to re-injure myself if at all possible. I also need a teacher with the patience to accept a student that seems to be "behind schedule" in some ways. At the end of May I am free to go where I choose -- my parents understand that I need to go outside of where I live to find help and they will support me wherever I decide to go. I would also like to be in a place where I can experience music, particularly classical music, at a professional level, which is something of a rarity where I currently reside.

So my question then is this: Where should I go? Whom should I contact? What steps should I take to find people who can help me? Specific names of teachers would be useful as well. I'm feeling somewhat overwhelmed and am wondering what to do. I've read posts on this website for several years now, and I trust many people here could give me some good advice. It would certainly be much appreciated!

Replies (4)

March 20, 2006 at 03:04 PM · Dear Emily,

First, let me say that I can encouragingly tell you that I have been in your shoes and can give you some optimistic advice.

Like you, I was about your age (18) when I started conservatory and realized that my technical level was much lower than most of my fellow students'. Furthermore, I was injured for about 1 month in that first year with similar symptoms that you experienced. This was due to bad technique and constant repeating of irregular movements that the body couldn't tolerate.

Because of excellent training and extremely hard work, I was able to reverse my problems and build a solid technique. This is the result of years of hard work and effective practicing that is efficient.

The most important advice I can give you is to find yourself the best teacher possible and then work slowly, steadily, and for many hours. Make sure that you take enough breaks (every 45 min is my recommendation) so that your body can rest. Also, if something feels wrong, it is wrong...Take a book like Simon Fischer's "Basics" and read up on the theory of violin playing.

Good luck!


March 20, 2006 at 08:12 PM · Emily,

On the map it looks like you're only about an hour from Ithaca, where you should be able to find some excellent teachers. Upstate NY may feel like the boondocks, but excellent music abounds in the most surprising places!

However, I absolutely sympathize with your desire to leave home. :)

Good luck!

March 20, 2006 at 11:01 PM · Thanks for the responses. I have considered Ithaca for lessons. There is definitely some draw to move further out of town, you are right. I have a couple of names of people to contact up in Ithaca, but have opted to see what other options I have first. But if Ithaca was a place where I could find a teacher there who was experienced in teaching students how to play with less tension, or even who had helped students with injuries in the past, I would be happy with that!

March 22, 2006 at 12:23 AM · Greetings,

from what you say things are very far from hopeless. There are so many variables in human potential and its development at this stage in the game. A few years on and things might be rather more clearly defined.

Yes, you do need to get the best possible teacher. That is always true and there is almost always an element of compromise involved. But one thing that does sort of raise its voice in my mind is to not get too hung up on the ide a of having a teacvher who is good with injuries and whatnot.

It is the moral obligation of -any- violin teacher to teach you the most relaxed and natural manner of playing possible, and one that suits your physique and talent. This is not a question of specialization.

It is a question of competence.

A teacher who does not understand basic anatomy, has an interest in psychology and stress, undertsands and teaches the importnace of exercise and stretching, what to do with injuries, who to go to with injuries, what is the best route for you and so on is simply not good enough and should leave the profession as far as I am concerned.

When you look for a teacher try and take a look at the students as well as the teacher. See if you can see a consistent pattern of tension or relaxtion in the playing. Don`t make judgements on just one case though. Talk to your prospective teachers about the problems and ask them what they think about the (old) injury and how to go about preventing recurrence. Very often you can trust your instinct on whether you are comnfortable with the response.

It would also be very beneficial for you to study Alexander Technique , FeldenKreis and yoga although don`t confuse the purpose of the former two with the latter. The former are precusors to any kind of exericse as well as routes to letting the body heal itself through reclaiming a more natural use in generla life.As always, iit isa quesiton of money ...

Best of luck

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