50 years ago and now

September 4, 2018, 8:57 AM · As far as I can tell, tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of my first attendance of the local youth orchestra, MCYO, as a bass player. I was in 10th grade with one year of self-taught playing in school and one summer camp behind me.

You can imagine how blown away I was by the proficiency and excellence of my peers. Also scared s*tless at the prospect of being discovered as a fraud.

MCYO met every Wednesday in the music room at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and it gave me the first regularly scheduled free time to be away from my parents, who, while well-meaning, were by this time stifling and overbearing.

I gave up the bass after high school...until last week.

Last week I had my first ensemble rehearsal as a fledgling violinist and one of my new colleagues had a fine looking double bass.

Through the years I had always carried this rather smug feeling (kinda like carrying an ace in your pocket) that returning to the bass would be relatively easy, like riding a bicycle.

"Hey, I used to play one of those things".

"Go ahead and try it".

So I did. Sorta.

I tried but couldn't.

Couldn't find my left hand placement.

Couldn't press the strings.

Couldn't bow straight.

I couldn't do anything and totally embarrassed myself.

How disconcerting to have your own fifty year old myth suddenly go up in smoke.

However, in reality, I love being a beginner (hopefully not too long) in violin and this example is just another of life's little curveballs.


Replies (6)

September 4, 2018, 10:16 AM · I had a similar experience with one of my teachers at high school. I had walked out of a practise room violin in hand, he saw me and said "I used to do that!". So I gave him my violin and bow, and he played (not very well). But he was extremely pleased with himself after
September 4, 2018, 3:28 PM · I remember that rehearsal room at BCC well. :-) (MCYO 1974-1978; was in the junior orchestra a few years before that.) Hope you have a wonderful new journey ahead!
September 5, 2018, 12:05 PM · Viola da gamba seems to me as an instrument way more gentle on body & mind.
September 5, 2018, 12:41 PM · My Dad was really a violinist and violist, but he taught himself the lower instruments well enough to play the bass part of the Trout on either (and, I think, teach the Double Bass in school).
September 5, 2018, 7:13 PM · Rocky I just bought a viola da gamba about 6 weeks ago and will have my 2nd lesson this Saturday. I have been trying to teach myself violin for almost 3 and a half years now, and though I've made a lot of progress from a zero starting point, I'm sure I'd be further along if I'd taken lessons. I've decided that, at least with this viol, I will take lessons and try some discipline and guidance in my study. It's not just the instrument I love, but the 16th thru early 18th-century consort repertoire. Indeed much more gentle on the body and mind (and soul) than the vast majority of music over the recent few hundred years.
September 6, 2018, 3:47 PM · I just tell myself that the bass is like the bottom four strings of a guitar. That serves me well enough that I can fill in until the bass player gets back from the bathroom (by which time my hands are exhausted).

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