Traversing the country goes much like patchwork quilting. As I travel, I observe the many different people that make up this multi-colored sphere. We meet at the airport like kaleidoscope patterns, merging and departing on choreographed schedules to the hue that we call home.
My particular place is a snippet of blue and white in the north corner, but as I cross the threshold of the house I left nearly five weeks ago, I feel little connection to it. No cross-stitch patterns of sweet sentiment attach me to this particular location. No familiar welcome smell greets me at the door. I feel distant, yet obliged to this carpet that needs vacuumed before lessons begin. But my true home awaits just down the road with a coffee mug and a table of friends, amongst the community that makes up Soldotna.
The first week back always proves difficult when multiple last-minute cancellations need reckoning. Each thinks they are the only one, but each swatch of fabric is held to the next with a row of stitches that, when clipped, unravels. Next thing you know, one person's missing tuition becomes four. As I plan out each conversation, I fret about friendships, contracts, confrontations, and the difference between selfishness and self-respect.
Yet, amidst this initial icy reception, I find myself being showered throughout the week with an unexpected flurry of random kindness, from a myriad of people I don't even know. Such randomness begs for an explanation: weather patterns?--sun spots?--year of the rabbit? Whatever the case, something's happened that's put my heart in a warming trend, despite being minus twenty and mid-January.
I head to town for coffee, pondering human potential and the contrast between good and evil--when placed side by side, what lovely and interesting patterns it makes. As I go, the low-lying sunlight through snow-laden branches glitters like wind chimes and magic.
What a beautiful mess.
I'm thoroughly overwhelmed and perplexed at the recent generous outpourings of both prominent and anonymous members of violinist.com that have been directed specifically at myself. It has provoked periods of introspection on my behalf, particularly regarding the self-worthiness in respect to my own status in life. Undeserved, to say the least.
The icy drive over to New York City and back was actually the scariest part of the day. Upon arriving at the home of Elana Lehrer in North Jersey, I introduced myself and we took off to hop a train into the city. On the way, we chatted nonstop about the latest violin gossip and other random topics as though we'd always known each other (except that we had a lot of catching up to do, were this the case). She'd lined up four different shops to visit; if we worked quickly and didn't take any wrong turns, we could make all four in an afternoon. Unfortunately, we lost track of time over colossal cream cheese distractions at Brooklyn Bagel, and ended up 30 minutes late for David Segal's.
The shop was tiny, and customers were already lined up being waited upon when we arrived. To pass the time as we waited for assistance, we shuffled into a side room and tried out each other's instruments. However, since they had only a few violins in my range to try, it didn't take long to sample them all and choose my favorite, an 1886 Desiato: it was only six grand over budget. Next stop was Julie Reed-Yeboah.
She welcomed us into her shop and led us to a spacious room with a line of fiddles in my price range. I played them through, once again discovering that the violins in my range were nothing spectacular. I chose my easy favorite, a 2007 Greiner: it was only 20 grand over budget. Oh, I wished I'd never touched it! Julie gave me the contact information in case I wanted to request a commission from the maker. I thought about various criminal behaviors and which option I might choose in order to make it happen.
Then we got to talking. When I told her I was from Alaska, she began mentioning connections she had with other musicians up there. For some reason, she mentioned Nebraska. Knowing my accompanist was originally from there, I asked her if by chance she knew her. "Actually," I added, "Her brother David Wiebe is a violin maker here in New York. Have you heard of him?"
"Why yes, I had dinner with him last Thursday, as a matter of fact!"
"Last Thursday? No kidding! I saw the photos on facebook!"
We laughed over what a small world it was and exchanged email addresses. So much for my anticipated chilly East Coast reception!
Gael Francoise was next on the list. He had some nice French fiddles with interesting histories, but none really grabbed my attention (bad acoustics?). He did have a nice unlabeled copy of a Testori: it was only five grand over budget.
The last shop we went to, Arcieri Violins, was perhaps the most enlightening of all. There, we were informed of the many ways in which people get swindled in the violin market. We received plenty of advice about making good choices when buying an instrument. I got my sound post adjusted for the first time ever and discovered what that whole thing is all about. I found I could get rid of my wolf note, but not without sacrificing the full, throaty tone, so the trick was in finding a balance between throaty and clarity/responsiveness.
As far as their violins go, I really liked a composite Grancino there, and the price was actually closer to what I'd originally had in mind when I'd begun shopping that day.
It would be difficult to say which violin was the best of all I played in New York, since each shop comes with its own set of acoustics, and logistics made it impossible for any kind of finalist show down. My admitted favorite though, was a Bergonzi: it was only about two million over budget.
We closed out our fun-filled day of violin shopping with some tasty Jewish food and lousy service at Carnegie Deli. After dinner, we grabbed a cannoli but missed the train, and played games with anagrams while waiting for the next ride back to NJ.
As I sat on the bench at the train station in New York City, I marveled over the fact that I'd once again found another kindred spirit through internet connections. It's official: my friends are now scattered all over the country. Why can't I find friends like these closer to home? It would certainly be more convenient--albeit less fun.
Here I sit, in front of the computer at my relatives' farmhouse in rural PA, scanning maps of New York City. I thought it might be fun while I was in the area to check out some shops and try some instruments in the next price bracket--you know, just to see what is out there--so I could begin making plans for a future savings investment. The thought of actually stepping inside a glitzy NY store gives me anxiety, though. (Upon reviewing previous blogs back to back, I see my anxiety is an ongoing theme...) Having grown up in Oklahoma, a state with completely different protocol concerning hospitality and social interaction, I was in for a rude surprise the first time I dealt with the East Coast.
My first cold shoulder came from a lady at a Godiva shop in one of the New Jersey malls. Wanting a little splurge to cap off my happy day of bargain shopping, I perused the truffles while the sales clerk assisted another customer. Finally, I got her attention. "How much for that one?" I asked, pointing at a particularly tempting one. "Oh, they're very expensive." Shrugging and slightly taken aback, I replied, "I know, but I just want a couple. How much?" With a layer of ice, she repeated, "Honey, these are very expensive." Not knowing how to get any further in this conversation, and already feeling put on the spot for no reason whatsoever, and having not experienced such snubbery since 7th grade lunch period with the cheerleaders, I simply retreated with my tail tucked between my legs, sans chocolate. My mother-in-law was irate when she heard about my denial, and gave me a whole box of Godiva chocolates for Christmas.
I received similar treatment when shopping for wedding rings. What was it, my attire? The way I approached the salesperson? Did I smell funny? I couldn't figure it out. They particularly didn't like the fact that I insisted I didn't want anything obtrusive on my finger to get in the way of my activities. I didn't want to get dough stuck in the prongs. I didn't want it to catch in the reins while practicing dressage. And I most certainly didn't want to have to take it off every time I practiced. They kept saying, "No, you want it to be big, to pop out and dazzle, and catch people's eyes from across the room." I don't know what they thought I was trying to attract with shiny objects: my friends are neither ravens nor racoons. I ended up contacting a shop on the isle of Skye in Scotland for a simple celtic knot.
When visiting Kansas City a couple of weeks ago, I was welcomed with the kindest of royal treatment. Wyatt Violins will show you the entire collection while you have your bow rehaired, walking you to your car with an armload of freebies at the end of the day--nice to see you, take care, keep in touch! Seeing as how they offered me full-value trade-in toward my next instrument, it would be convenient if they could track down my next violin and have it waiting for me the next time I'm down from Alaska. Now wouldn't that be nice?
Still, curiosity leads me to the Big Apple. There, I plan to meet a new violin connection (an internet aquaintance formed through my nightmarish settlement for the bow burning), who will do me the honor of showing me around the area. Hopefully, I can ride on her coat tails, appearing as though I always do this sort of thing. I'll simply hide my road map in my case pocket, and perhaps my unfamiliar audience won't know that I would be more comfortable reeling in a king salmon in front of them than trying out an expensive violin.
More entries: December 2010
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Violinist.com Summer Music Programs Directory
ARIA International Summer Academy
Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine