V.com weekend vote: What inspired you start playing the violin, viola or other instrument?

September 22, 2016, 7:00 PM · What inspired you to learn to play the violin, viola or other instrument?

It's one of the first questions I ask people whom I'm interviewing, because the answer can tell so much. For some people, it's their parents, especially if they have musical parents. They see their parents playing and they want to do the same. Or, it can be a parent who never really had the chance to play, who encouraged and supported their child's lessons. Maybe they enrolled their child before the child was even old enough to think about it, and it turned out to be a lifelong pursuit.


For others, a famous musician might be the inspiration, someone they saw in concert or heard in recordings, who became a kind of role model. And don't discount those appearances that superstar musicians such as Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma, Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell have made on Sesame Street or other children's programs -- I've had people tell me that seeing a short segment on a child's show flipped the switch on for them, inspiring them to find this instrument and learn to play it!

Sometimes it's a recording itself -- the music -- regardless of who is playing it, that is the inspiration. And it might simply be a recording of a classical piece, or fiddle music, or musicals, that gets the ball rolling.

Some get their introduction to an instrument from a school program; this was the case with me. The music teacher at my elementary school came around to various classes, recruiting for the orchestra. She brought along a fourth-grader named Sara, who played for us, and I immediately knew that I wanted to play that instrument! A teacher can be very inspiring!

What is your story? Please cast your vote and then let us know in the comments!

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September 23, 2016 at 02:35 AM · I was an avid fan of music since I could remember. Then I started piano lessons, and probably because of my own curiosity, friend's suggestions etc (I cannot remember clearly), I took up the violin and am now interested in the viola.

September 23, 2016 at 06:37 AM · Early TV favs Florian Zabach, George Liberace, Gizelle McKenzie and Jack Benny.

September 23, 2016 at 09:55 AM · I have two older brothers. Family tradition was to pick two instruments at the age of 5. One brother played violin and piano, but he eventually gave up the violin for the trumpet. The other played piano and cello but gave up the piano for the flute. I chose violin and piano and stayed with both, moving my piano interests to jazz. Through college years I played gigs with cello brother, who became a very fine, entirely self-taught amateur jazz bassist. A year ago I bought a viola to play in a local chamber orchestra, but I don't like it as much as the violin. I maintain a steady diet of solitary violin practice and jazz piano gigs.

September 23, 2016 at 10:52 AM · When I was a kid, there was an old violin in the closet. It was ragged and falling apart, and even though not all of the parts were there, we were treating this Strad copy like it was a real Strad. We'd take it out and pretend to play it. That made me want to play one for real. I found out 30 years later that my dad got it at a yard sale for $5.

September 23, 2016 at 11:44 AM · I have played musical instruments my whole life, from the time I was 4 or 5 years old and started on piano. What prompted me to take up viola at age 45 was Nobuko Imai's recording of the cello suites. Especially the prelude to the fifth - wow.

September 23, 2016 at 11:46 AM · I took up the violin because there was a violinist playing at my church and I loved her sound. My mom tried to convince me to play cello instead because she was apprehensive about the sounds of a beginning violinist in the house. But I convinced her. :)

September 23, 2016 at 12:00 PM · Liked double bass, thought hands were too small and I was too old (was 14 or so). I really believed at the time that you just didn't play string instruments if you hadn't been born and raised with one in your little hands -- I'm not sure why I thought this.

I later heard Heifetz, Milstein, Menuhin, and Haendel, in that order, and was amazed by high-level violin playing. So I took the plunge several years later. Had to quit violin for medical reasons, but as a fan of the double bass, I loved the viola's sound.

That's the current journey and its own story...one that's still in progress. Viola is great, though.

September 23, 2016 at 01:58 PM · I found an unstrung shell of a violin at an antique shop and it was so cheap, I decided to buy it and refurbish it. I taught myself to play (if it can be called that) by watching instructional videos on you tube.

September 23, 2016 at 03:16 PM · Holding my great-grandfather's violin in my hands --- my grandmother was his daughter --- he was THERE in the instrument, even though I'd never met the man; and she'd given it to me . . .

September 23, 2016 at 03:55 PM · This was discussed on v.com just a few weeks ago. Anyway, I voted "something else," which is currently ahead in the polls. That something else was the design of the violin. I had never seen a violin apart from pictures in books, which I paid little attention to, until I was 15 and handled one in my neighbor's family room. I was stunned by the design of this ancient object, and asked my neighbors, who weren't currently using it, if I could borrow it. That was the start.

September 23, 2016 at 05:56 PM · My dad started me on violin lessons when I was 5. He never had the chance to learn, although I think he wanted to. I played through high school, then took a long break (20+ years). In 2011, I attended a recital of Anne Akiko Meyers and was inspired to play again. I've been practicing pretty consistently since then, joined a community orchestra, and even look for opportunities to perform solo.

September 23, 2016 at 06:25 PM · I started playing the violin because I was a fan of the "Little House" books and I liked the scenes with Pa playing his fiddle. As a child I used to act out the books with my dolls and I wanted to play the fiddle for them. Then my elementary school music program started in 4th grade and I started the violin. My parents weren't musicians but they were supportive of my taking private lessons and playing in high school and youth orchestra. I played all through high school and for a couple of years in college. Then in grad school while I was getting my PhD I quit. I restarted the first time after I broke up with a boyfriend and was living on my own. I felt like I needed something new and creative in my life to get over that relationship, so I played for a few years but quit again when I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter. Then I restarted in 2006 when my then 7-year-old daughter was having a tough time with Suzuki violin lessons. I was originally just trying to help her but in the process I realized I enjoyed playing again for myself, and I started taking my own lessons. It's now been almost exactly 10 years since I restarted, and I hope I won't quit again! In that time, I've been in several community orchestras and chamber groups, played for church services, and learned to play the viola too.

September 23, 2016 at 06:55 PM · was the musically challenged one among my 2 younger brothers and sister as i was growing up.having seen my own 2 children excel in their high school band in their pre college/career years,i decided to make amends upon completion of my 35 year career as a high school teacher and coach.in the 2 years since retirement i have been able to find my way around the mandolin,ukulele,guitar and and now taking violin lessons.for some reason i simply LOVE the violin.its sound,its feel,the (in my opinion)level of difficulty is above and beyond that of my 3 previous "string" events.playing a fret less stringed instrument you have to be more focused on what you are playing but the reward is that you get better,more pure sound.i could go on but i have a lot of time to make up on....

September 23, 2016 at 07:11 PM · I was inspired by a whole host of famous string quartets that concertized in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 80's and 90's. But I didn't get to start playing until it became easy to get an inexpensive but decent "beginner" Chinese violin when I was looking in 2004. Now I'm studying viola exclusively. My inspiration for trying viola came about many years ago when I read an article about a local violist who had recently died. What got my attention was the author's description of how she was such a "natural" for the viola and I decided that some day I must _at least_ try the viola. (I'm _not_ a "natural" :-) but the instrument does resonate with me both literally and figuratively.)

September 23, 2016 at 07:21 PM · Having a violin in the house, or having someone give you a violin, can be another inspiration. Similar to Kit -- my grandmother had a violin in her attic, and I think that's something I knew when I saw the convincing little concert at my school that got me started. Eventually that violin did make it into my hands!

September 23, 2016 at 07:56 PM · My mom took us five kids to start music lessons. Two of my sisters picked the piano, my brother and I picked the violin, and my other sister picked both. Eventually, some of my siblings stopped and I continued. We grew up in a place where there were the national orchestra only played 4-5 concerts an entire season, there were no such thing as youth or community orchestras, and 99.99% of the music professionals did not play in any orchestra. My interest fizzled before high school.

After college, I moved to the US. I decided to pick up the violin again during my job search. I was referred to a local teacher by someone from the violin shop. My teacher opened my eyes to a lot of new things. She invited me to my first classical concert and immediately, I was floored.

I haven't put down the violin since then. I joined the community orchestra, and subscribed to concerts. I feel so lucky to be in a country with such high caliber musicians, both amateur and professional alike. Sometimes, I think, "ha! These people don't know how good they have it!"

September 23, 2016 at 08:27 PM · My mother loved the violin sound so when the opportunity to learn came up at school, I was put forward. I was driven to lessons and orchestra practice and to trips with school orchestras. I switched to viola at this point. Gave up during university but restarted afterwards and played for a bit. Then restarted again when my son started playing violin, again as encouragement, but injury stopped me playing for a while. I started again recently and still enjoy it...

September 23, 2016 at 09:03 PM · Dad played and taught violin & viola (also cello & double bass well enough to teach up to a certain level - could handle the double bass part of the Trout). Well, you asked us to comment!!!

September 23, 2016 at 09:08 PM · I voted "Recording," although "School" was an additional factor. I was originally supposed to start violin in the public school program but ended up starting with a private teacher instead.

I'd already liked hearing classical music on radio and recordings before preschool. Then I started piano at 7 but switched to violin after hearing a pro orchestra play at my elementary school. I had the ambition at a young age to become a pro symphony player like the ones I'd heard and seen; but, over time, I leaned more toward small chamber work and violin/piano and violin/guitar combos. I haven't done orchestra since 21 y/o but listen to symphonic music probably more than anything else -- thanks to the professionals who thrive on bringing us this kind of entertainment.

September 23, 2016 at 09:17 PM · I played the piano with Old Time Fiddlers jams, and decided if

those old guys could play the fiddle, so could I. Seven years

later and both fiddle and classical lessons, I am still progressing,

Suzuki 4 and mark oconnor 3. piano playing has improved too.

September 23, 2016 at 10:30 PM · Was assigned viola in public school on day one. That same evening, it was John William's theme to Star Wars that inspired me, much to my parent's chagrin, as I proceeded to teach myself the theme song note by agonizing note before I had a single lesson.

September 24, 2016 at 02:33 AM · My story is similar to Karen Allendoerfer's. I started playing violin as a kid because of the music program in school. My parents, both nonmusicians, were supportive and involved when I took private lessons. My father used to take me to violin lessons and sit through the lessons with me. My violin teacher became a close friend of the family and was like a grandfather to me. I eventually "inherited" one of his violins. (See one of my very old (June 30, 2006) blogs on v.com, http://www.violinist.com/blog/paulinefiddle/20066/5394/ ) Like Karen, I stopped playing in grad school. (We both studied neuroscience.) Like Karen, I went back to the violin when my marriage (relationship in her case) broke up, and it was like returning to an old love. I started playing the viola because a friend bought one and asked me to try it out. Once I held it and coaxed beautiful music out of it, I was hooked. Violist Yuri Bashmet was also an influence. My whole personal history is closely entwined with my beloved violin.

September 24, 2016 at 11:59 AM · I believed wanting to learn the violin was my own idea, but my mother once told me it was a case of successful brain-washing. Even so, I remember being fascinated by the movements of this guy playing the violin: my parents were rehearsing with him for a performance in church, I think. A few years later, I was about 10 and had been learning for just over a year, my father took me to an interview and recital with Hugh Bean in Cambridge (UK) and I'm sure Hugh Bean said he was, at first, fascinated by the movements rather than the sounds produced by a violinist. "Like me", I thought. Today I particularly appreciate the sound and the versatility of the violin, but I do get physical pleasure out of playing as well. Maybe that's why I'm reluctant to just study the score and recording of a piece I'm learning even though I know that this might be more effective than just sawing away all the time ...

September 24, 2016 at 03:22 PM · Voted for "something else" because it's not easy to find what exactly inspired me. My father was a composer, I liked many recordings, like Beethoven's Spring (by Perlman/Ashkenazy) and Mozart's Eine Kleine, but I also loved Perman and (later) Kavakos. So it was probably a mix of all those.

September 26, 2016 at 03:03 AM · @Pauline, one of the last blogs of yours I read was called something like "I'm loving the viola". I was looking forward to hearing more. Your recommendation of "From Violin to Viola" was great and I practice something from it every day, even though there is lots of music I need to practice each time. Regards, Fran

September 29, 2016 at 12:19 PM · My sister was playing the piano and I wanted to play an instrument, so I used her books to teach me how. She had a fit, told mother to tell me to keep away from her piano. Mother said she had an old violin in the attic that her uncle gave her. If I was a really good girl, cleaned my room, did housework, she would get the violin fixed up......it had one string, no bridge, no bow screw.....she would pay for lessons. I told her I couldn't play the violin, only boys played violin. I have no idea where that came from.......but I cleaned my room, washed the dishes.....and took lesson. Teacher said I have an excellent ear but at 12 years old was too old to play in a major orchestra.

That's ok. I have the best of both worlds now, 40 yrs later: I have a job that pays the bills, so choose which gigs to play, how far to travel, and love my community orchestra! Way to go mother!!

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