I start Wednesday. Tchaikovsky 5 is on the menu, so I guess I have a lot of notes to learn this week.
“My audition went okay.” ~Charlie Caldwell
“My audition went well, I think. It was kind of weird... I'm really happy about it since it was my first audition. It really wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.” ~Lisa M
“Although I didn't perform at my best, I did what I could under nervousness and pressure... I wish I could play as well under pressure as I play at home.” ~William Yap
“It didn't go as well as I had hoped (does it ever?)” ~Kelsey Z
“It went okay. I had some moments where I reminded myself that I could control things. And yet I was still a bit shaky, a bit hesitant... I didn’t feel super nervous or panicky, but certainly my heart was pumping and I wasn’t ‘relaxed’.” ~Laurie Niles
“I hate waiting for audition results...” ~Andrew Paa
“Nervous, oh so dreadfully nervous I have been and am.... But WHY must you say that I am mad?” ~Linda Lerskier–-er, I mean Edgar Allan Poe
It was the same old audition story, plus or minus a few nerves. In fact, I remember telling myself this about halfway into the Tchaikovsky excerpt. So this is what they all write about, I thought, as I ad libbed the last half of the run and landed at the top. ...Except, I wonder how many other violinists found the panel of judges filing into the small dressing room where they were warming up. I’d always pictured standing under interrogation lights on a stage, as an unseen force listened from the seats in a darkened auditorium. Instead, I got to stand five feet from the conductor--under unusually good track lighting–-and reenact a pagan sacrificial dance, following it with Beethoven’s Pastorale. (“It’s very hard to play Beethoven after Stravinsky,” I interjected.) Yes, I was nervous, and no, I didn’t play my best, but I think at least a snippet or two showed them what I really could do. The Schumann #2 was last, and it surprised me by being quite good.
And the results? The fortune cookie preceding the audition announced: You will attain a hoped-for objective. We’ll see...
Four cases of salmon and two cases of duck gumbo. But that's my final offer.
Actually, that can has been open for quite some time now, perhaps dating back to the violin purchase. I tell people I couldn’t afford to be away from Alaska for four months. But could I?
Did I really need a new violin? Did I need to buy a mode of transportation to get me to Anchorage and back for lessons? Does love weigh more or less than four month's pay and the loss of my studio? Does a role model wife look like a woman who sacrifices her own pursuits to stand nonstop at her husband's side? I mean, really, I could have probably found a way to avoid having to hold a job to pay bills this fall. I suppose what it all comes down to is, I didn’t want to.
Or how about this? Is my husband's job worth his mandatory leave of absence? Couldn't he find a better living and better name for himself by becoming the chef of his own restaurant? Certainly, he could find a more comfortable way to make a living. What's most important to him?
So the truth of the matter is, we both chose this.
We couldn't get everything just perfect. We weighed all the benefits and detriments and decided that this had to work for us. I wanted to go with him. I wanted the fortune cookie to be right too, and have fame and riches to help me out a bit. Oh well. Can't always get what you want. So you make the best of what you’ve got.
The people around here worry about us. The amount of concern and comments I received about our well-being began to make me apprehensive about our decision. It wasn’t until today that I realised that, in general, they are reflecting opinions based on their own relational experiences. Just today, a woman told me that George was going away for so long because he wanted to be gone, and that he wasn’t going to work, but just go hunting and fishing the whole time and hang out with his friends, and that he would get used to being away, and would come to enjoy it. These statements really hurt, and I was afraid that the doubts she might cast in my heart would sink me. Then I remembered that she was speaking in such a way because that’s what her own husband did to her, and her anger hasn’t subsided to this day.
But they don’t know me and George. We’re fine. We’re going to be just fine. It’ll all come to pass, and we’ll be better off than before.
It wasn’t until I considered sending George off with a kiss for every day he would be away, and realised that we would chap our lips before reaching the end, that the magnitude of the situation became clear: 85 days is far too long for a business trip.
I should sleep. I just can’t get my head around the situation, though; it's very large and heavy.
“Sometimes, when my back is turned away, Bowie calls to me.”
“It sings to me, a song.”
“How does it go?”
(To the tune of “Hello My Baby”)
“Show me your bow hold, show me your bow hold, I think you’re really swell!”
“And when my dog comes round, Bowie growls at him. Dogs like to chew sticks, you know.”
I found the web page.
I saw some options and clicked on one.
I got this great scene on my media player of a young Asian woman dressed sharply in black, taking the stage for her unaccompanied Bach. Oh goody! I grabbed some smoked salmon and hunched over the computer.
I heard two and a half chords and then her bow arm choked up. She stuttered a bit, and I frowned at the incoherency of her phrasing. Then she stopped altogether. Can I get a replay? I slid the mouse back to the start.
She was exactly as bad the second and third time. And the fourth and fifth time. After waiting several minutes for her frozen body to defrost long enough to perform some other trick, a whisp of smoke emitted over my head, and I stepped away from my desk before the flames in my head made it down to my fists.
She never did unlock herself.
At the age of eighteen, I walked through the door of the studio of my first violin professor, carrying big dreams and opinions about myself. This quickly changed. “You have less problems with your musicality, so we will now focus on your technique.” He assigned me Kreutzer, scales, double stops, and bow hand exercises until I wept bitterly in despair. “You don’t even know how to play a simple bow stroke,” he observed . “I don’t know if there’s enough time in four years to teach you all that you should already know.” At least he was honest. His final forewarning embedded itself like a smoldering ember as I drifted from the violin onto other activities: “Ten years from now you’ll come back, and you’ll want to learn all the things you should have learned now, and it will be too late; you won’t be able to.”
At the age of twenty-eight, after a long unresolved break from the violin , I picked it up again and decided to give it another try.
For the next two and a half years, I was blessed with the insights and advice of so many faces I’ve never met from all over the world through the internet. I read invaluable articles, researched literature, and picked the minds of great people in violin pedagogy. Life brought me friends that opened doors to amazing opportunities and musical experiences.
For two and a half years, I tinkered and experimented with this and that. I did away with my shoulder rest, and I revamped my left hand position. I learned about martele, and bel canto, and Galamian, and Heifetz. I listened to recordings and stole ideas. Then, I geared up for my first concerto undertaking: Mozart #3. In May, I performed it for my students at our spring recital.
Finally, I enrolled in lessons at the University of Anchorage. It took so long to get the courage to offer myself up for regular criticism from a critical ear, but I knew I was long overdue in seeking professional face-to-face guidance. What if he tells me I need to start over? What if he laughs at my strange concoctions and forces me into his own mold of fingerings, bowings, and interpretations? As the student, I needed to come to a point where I was okay with that. If he put me on open strings for a month, I could handle it.
I walked through the door of Walter Olivares' office and played him a scale and an arpeggio, stuttering apologies for tardiness due to the 150-mile drive in the rain. Then I played the Mozart. Then some Bach. Okay, let it rip.
He said, “You are a fine player! You can play this. The technical things are there. Shifting's fine. Good, bold tone. What you need is to get out and play with other musicians and make music again.” Needless to say, I was taken aback by this statement, which stood diametrically opposed to my old teacher’s opinion. He then assigned me a Bach partita and a flashy piece by Ginastera, with octaves and challenging runs. What’s this sudden forward leap in repertoire? All this time, I have been holding back and reworking things to get them just so. I was all ready in my mind to go back to Twinkle if need be. Is this okay?
I drove home somewhat exhilarated, somewhat disappointed. Yes, I was happy to be stamped with approval for a change, but I think I’d set my mind on being dashed on the rocks. Mentally, I was still braced for the impact.
As I picked through my new partita this evening, it finally sunk in: I can play better. I am playing better. I will play even better. Even though I don’t believe it, it’s still true. I’m watching my dreams unfold, despite the bane of my former teacher. The violinist that abandoned her music performance degree twelve years ago exists no longer.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.