I started begging for violin lessons when I was three.
My mom played the violin (when she wasn’t painting or being a psychology professor).
Dad played the piano (when he wasn’t studying his Scrabble words or being a music education professor).
(Does that about explain me?)
The violin was a no-brainer. To me, it was the most elegant instrument.
The ups and the downs
When I was four and a half, I began taking classical violin lessons. I continued till the age of sixteen.
Every Saturday morning, I’d go to my private lesson, Sunday evenings, orchestra or group lesson, a yearly concert at Christmas, and 1-3 weeks of music camp during the summer. Every year. For twelve years.
A lot happened during that time. Despite the occasional (okay, nightly) fights to get me to practice, I generally enjoyed playing the violin.
I became quite good. By the end, I was midway through book seven (for those unfamiliar with the Suzuki method, “midway through book seven” definitely qualifies as “quite good”- to say the least).
However, as you might imagine, by the time I gave it up, I was not the same wide-eyed enthusiastic pupil I had once been.
By my teen years, I was no longer listening to Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery for fun. Nope. It was more like NoFX.
I could no longer relate to the music I was playing. And I can honestly say that the last few years, I played less out of genuine passion than out of a sense of obligation. Nobody pressured me to stick with it. It was all self-imposed. But the pressure was there nonetheless.
My “Why” had changed and the fire was gone
Being a violinist was part of my identity. It was something I had done for so long. I worried that if I gave it up, I’d somehow lose myself. I remember feeling profound sadness at the idea of leaving behind something I had invested so much of myself in. It was really scary. I didn’t want to be a quitter.
But staying around didn’t feel honest anymore. It was no longer consistent with who I was as a person. Remaining with the violin felt like a lie.
I had to end it.
From one stringed instrument to the next
So often we focus on what we leave behind instead of the possible adventures to come.
In the years after I quit the violin, I got really into the guitar. I formed a band that I was very serious about and taught myself web design, marketing and business to promote the band.
A few years in, I began taking jazz guitar lessons. I learned that there are not only keys, but “modes” and I started incorporating all of these sexy ninth chords into my music. I spent a summer studying at Berklee College of Music. It was one of the best summers of my life.
When the band fell apart, I did the solo thing, began learning about audio production and recording my own demos in my basement. I got pretty good at that too. I would have missed out on all of this, had I stuck with the violin.
Sure, I could have pursued both instruments. But I doubt I would have. I needed to stop viewing music as this thing I felt shackled to and did out of a sense of obligation.
I needed to reclaim music as my own, and it needed to be on my terms, in a form that I related to.
That required saying goodbye to the violin.
We build on past skills (and even if we don’t, learning for learning’s sake is never a waste)
Did studying violin for twelve years help me pick up the guitar faster? You bet. Stringed instruments are not that different from one another. More importantly, all those years of music lessons developed my ear. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I no longer play much guitar. I cycled on over to graphic design and then film making. Now my art form of choice tends to be writing. But my years in a band taught me web design, audio production and business- all of which I’ve used repeatedly in various projects since (including Puttylike).
When interests reemerge
Some scanners have interests that cycle in and out. Mine rarely do. Or at least they tend only to reemerge in new forms. But maybe that’s what this is…
And so here it is:
For some odd reason, after eleven years of not wanting to touch a violin, I now feel the urge to pick it up again.
It might have to do with being in a new city. Maybe it’s a strange manifestation of homesickness- a longing for something familiar from my youth. Or maybe not.
Maybe there’s something about the violin that I do love. Maybe now that playing doesn’t represent obligation, it won’t be so painful. Maybe it’ll even be fun, like it was for many of those twelve years. Like it was when I was 3 years old, begging my parents for lessons.
Have you ever become so deeply involved in one thing, that you stuck with it longer than you should have? Have any of your interests reemerged years later, with new meaning?