On giving up
I think some of us reach a point such that, after some circumstances, we start to consider if we should stop violin altogether. This is happening to me since a few days, and while I am pretty sure the decision is made and I don't wish to turn back, I'm taking at least a week to start making the necessary calls and sending some emails regarding my decision - this implies telling my teacher I will not be taking lessons anymore (I paid the whole month, so I'd have two lessons left, but I don't care), telling the manager in my school-orchestra that I will not taking part in their activities anymore (even though they were as kind as to take me in despite my low playing level, being all of them amazing), and also getting rid of my instruments (3 violins I have at the time, 2 of which I think will end up on ebay, and the latter in the trash bin).
What's the reason behind this? There are a few. For starters, recently I had to be in a concert (my first concert, I've never played in public before) for which I was not ready at all (at my level, learning close to 5 pieces in three months to perform in a theatre is no possible at all). I was there just because I had to, and this meant ignoring many parts of the score that I am unable to play at the proper speed. That's mistake #1, I think, for I should have told the manager that I am not ready to perform these pieces. Since I was given two tickets for the concert, I decided to give the tickets to my mother and her boyfriend (not my father, they've been together for about 10 years); that's mistake #2 I believe, since I learned that night the boyfriend commented of how bad I played, followed by some comments regarding how I live at the moment (too personal to discuss here) - this apparently lead to a mild argument between my mother and this guy, but I also think he might be right - a "stranger" can provide sometimes the most objective judgment. I've played for about six years, and he's right, my playing should be far better than it is, which suggest it is no longer a matter of how much I practice or if my teacher is qualified enough, but it seems that all in all, I am unable to learn. Also, the fact that my mother recorded the whole think and shared it on her (too much active) social networks, upsets me even more, since I am able to see I played like shit and she is not willing to delete the recordings.
Now, I am not sure about what should I do. Since two days ago when I heard about how bad I played, I've been pondering if it might be time to get another hobby, something else to do with my free time. And also, I'm looking for the best way to quit all my music-related activities. Rather than do it immediatly (which it would be too harsh for myself, and I also think I should wait since my judgment seems to be compromised) I considered do it like this: within two days I should have my regular weekly lesson, and two days after it I'll be sending a text-message to my teacher to inform her that I've decided I will not be taking lessons nor playing violin anymore (at this point, whatever I'm doing is definitely NOT playing violin); I should have rehearsal with this orchestra in the days that follow, which I think I will skip, and two or three days I will send them an email to tell them I will not be playing with them any more (and it won't matter, I wasn't playing before anyway). And what follows is getting rid of my instruments, since they aren't useful anymore - if I am unable to sell them, I guess they will end up in the garbage.
Telling my parents about it seems the hardest part, since I'm not a kid (past mid-twenties) they seem to be somewhat "happy" with this hobby I've had for a few years.
I can understand how you feel. It certainly seems like it's time to take a break.
"Played like sh*t" is not precise enough! What is your very own, considered analysis of the fateful video? Nerves? Music too tricky? Intonation, tone, rythm? Take a de-e-ep breath!
It's good to figure out what you most want to do and find a way to do it! What first attracted you to violin? Did you enjoy it? It sounds like you had a difficult introduction to public performing...I was at least lucky my teacher told me I was in no way "really" ready the first time I went to community orchestra practice, but he also told me I'd never be readier, either, because the only way to get the skills of ensemble playing, with a conductor, is to play in an orchestra. I struggled for some time, and now for years it's been a very fulfilling addition to my life and I don't regret it at all. It was very frustrating and difficult to start, though.
As a violinist, you gotta have thick skin. The first time I performed years ago, I was so nervous I was shaking all over and forgot my music—blanked out during the allegro of my final piece! I recovered and finished the performance, but I was ashamed for weeks. It was a long time before I gave a performance I was proud of.
When you say school, you mean graduate shool?
Having criticism so close to home, and having a mother who will not remove your "unauthorized autobiography" from public scrutiny must be playing heavily into this. Feeling all eyes are upon you (or ears) is something I might want to walk away from too.
As someone who played for a while, then stopped playing due to lack of practice (and the frustration from decomposed skills) - I'd say wait a bit.
Demian, I can only say what has already been said: Don't burn bridges as Andrew put it.
Yes, Demian, hopefully your post here will be a cathartic exercise to just see how it sounds before you actually act, and to exorcise the demons a bit.
Thank you for all your comments, I can't reply to all at the moment but I would like to clarify a few things. I started when I was 20, almost 21. I'm 27. Dropped a few times, but came back. This orchestra is also calls itself a school, you have to audition to enter but I believe they admit pretty much everyone who can play notes and read music. It's not exactly classical music, they teach how to interpret a kind of music that is fairly popular in the region (among "old" folks for the most part).
There are many reasons to pick up a hobby, as many as to give it up.
You’ve gotten a lot of great advice so far. However I’d like to bring up another thought for you. Whether it be a positive trait or negative trait of mine I cannot say for sure, but spite can be a powerful motivator sometimes.
@Tom Bop The swimming coach said, "It only takes a minute to quit, but years to get back."
I started playing at age 50. Then put it down at different times. There is not a day goes by that I do not kick myself for not finding the proper teacher years ago and keeping at it (instead letting negative teacher experiences make me give up). I even kick myself for not wanting to play the violin at a young age. In a town that still has no violin instructors. This time around I want to keep going, even though I think I suck, and I’m pretty sure you’re better than me. Don’t be me. Don’t spend all your time thinking “I should have kept at it so I wouldn’t suck so badly now. Gee, where would I be now if I’d not quit. “
Maybe read the piece I just posted about mediocrity. It's a hobby, not your career. You can enjoy it even if no one else thinks you're any good. :-)
I sensed that you are still very passionate about this. I will suggest you just telling yourself and others you are "taking a break" instead of quitting. If you are truly passionate, soon you will be able look beyond how well you play or what you have accomplished.
I have so many thoughts and so many questions. I'm going to try and reduce them to a few though, as I tend to ramble.
Don't be so hard on yourself. You are upset that others thought you didn't perform very well, for a performance you yourself admit were not ready for but for whatever reason felt obliged to do. And what other outcome did you expect? You did what you could given the circumstances, and received honest feedback, albeit perhaps too honest. So what if a few more people see the recorded performance, there is no shame in performing at any level and should be proud of YOUR achievement. I doubt many who commented can perform after 6 years of learning as a young adult any better than you did, if at all. Now you have something that tells you what you need to work on as a goal, and a good story to tell later on.
Demian, your original post strikes me as very "performance"-centered, very much about over-exposure and image. My guess is you are probably a much better player than me, but I will NEVER quit! I think that especially since recordings and various mass-distribution media, music has been turned into a celebrity business that takes away the more private and interior aspects of the real joy in making music, even if you aren't at a professional level. Ask yourself if you really love making music or not, and perhaps leave all the public performance out of the equation, at least until you feel comfortable with your playing again and will feel comfortable in perhaps a more modest and supportive setting.
OP: "I've played for about six years, and he's right, my playing should be far better than it is, which suggest it is no longer a matter of how much I practice or if my teacher is qualified enough, but it seems that all in all, I am unable to "
I heartily second Scott Cole's first post, and Erik Williams' post.
There's no such thing as "should" -- everyone progresses at their own rate. I've seen people who were still barely above beginner level after 10 years or more, but if they enjoy playing, who am I to judge?
I'm not familiar with orchestra. I don't understand the circumstances that would force your participation. I detest being recorded and would be mortified by publishing a non approved video. Bad experience. I think that sooner or later something unpleasant happens to all performers. Not the worst thing in the world though. As a singular incident, maybe not a call for an emotionally driven decision. Can you allow yourself some time to decompress?
I suspect you aren't as bad as you think you are. Why would your mother choose to post a video of it? It was likely a cell phone video. Those don't record tone very well. You didn't sound exactly like that recording in real life.
If you're good on the piano, then one day you will be good on the violin.
Well, I'm good on the piano... in an 11 year-old opinion. I can play some moderately difficult things (like Mozart and Scarlatti sonatas, Bach's preludes and fugues, some Chopin, some Mussorgsky, some Debussy...)I'm satisfied with that, since I play for my own enjoyment. My goal is to reach in the long term an equivalent violin level. They're radically different instruments, but I've seen that playing violin has made me play a more delicate piano.
When I was 15 I realized I was never going to be "all that" on the piano but I really enjoyed jazz. So I worked on it, got into the all-state jazz orchestra on piano, which connected me eventually to a truly amazing teacher (Bart Polot), and in college I formed a trio with bass (my own brother) and trumpet (Kevin Watt) and we had a blast. Nowadays I moonlight as a jazz pianist in a few different groups, and in fact I have to turn away about half of the scale-paying gigs I'm offered. It's not a significant source of income relative to my day job (which is not all that impressive in terms of pay either), but it sure is fun.
"If you like computers, buy a small synthesizer like a Yamaha MX61 and get Reaper for your laptop. That's a great way to enjoy and create music for someone who's so far behind the curve technically that you're wondering if you'll ever truly enjoy it."
I've been there too. A lot of otherwise good musicians drop out of the business in their mid-twenties when they hit their technical limits at the same time that they face the financial reality of adult life. I dropped out at 28, came back much later. Starting at 20 is not too late to get good, but it is too late to win the competitive auditions and contests with those who started at 7 yo. If your 6 years have been with the same teacher then it is probably time to move on to someone else. Every teacher has their own strengths and insights. Technical progress is not usually constant. There are plateaus of consolidation interrupted by break- throughs and rapid progress. Another thing to watch out for is that our perception, our understanding of music, and sense of pitch can improve faster than our playing, so that we think we are getting nowhere, or worse, when we are actually improving ! I also do not listen to my recordings; I sound ordinary, mediocre, and want to give it up. So, do not sell all of your violins. Park one or two in the closet and and take a long vacation from playing, lessons, and the orchestra. You will then discover how much you miss it and have the opportunity to think about what you really want to do. If and when you come back to the violin it will take about 2 weeks of intelligent practice to retrieve the former technique. Time solves many problems.~jq
I'm not particularly fond of telling people what to do with their lives, with things like, "You should do this.." or "don't do that." All we can really offer you is our opinions.
Tim, certainly I intended no offense. My post was intended as a few candid thoughts for the OP. As with everything else on this forum, take it or leave it.
Paul, I've been around the forum long enough to know that you would not have intended that post to come off in any way but helpful. I think I was simply trying to show it from the vantage point that computer music isn't a fall back for someone who has trouble playing a regular instrument, that is, if it came off that way. It kinda did for me.
Don't throw away your violins! There are so many variables---could be the wrong teacher, someone who doesn't understand what's holding you back and can't properly help you improve; it could be repertoire you're not passionate about; it could be a where you are at emotionally, and your living circumstances. There's also the fact that you were traumatized by this performance which you weren't ready for! I believe that performance anxiety really damaged my relationship with the violin early on.
That violinist in Dave Matthew's Band....horrific. No intonation. Can't count. But he's very rich from playing the violin. On the other hand, some of the greatest players don't make it on an international level. Struggling careers.
I know how you feel. I've had my fair share of discouraging events and I've thought I was totally done several times, but I'm still here and I played a violin recital this year (something I was sure I'd never do again). You might think "what does this guy know? He doesn't know me" and you'd be right, but consider this:
@Michael. If that appalling treatment by a teacher happened today you can be sure that they'd never be allowed to teach again - after the jail sentence is done.
Michael! That is quite a history!! It does make its way back.
Damn, Michael. I always enjoy your posts on here. That's a lot of baggage that your teacher saddled you with, but I hope you can work out a an approach that works for you for playing.