Saturday, June 23, 2012

Random Conversations with Strangers & My Adventures with the Violin

I realized it's been a while since I've posted on my progress with the violin. For those just joining us (or joining us in the roughly year since the last time I posted on the subject: I've been attempting to play the violin for about two and a half years now.

Inspired by the artistic mastery of the members of the Cleveland Orchestra and feeling the need for a hobby to take me away from what occasionally feels like an all-encompassing career: My criteria was "something that doesn't require electricity" and long calling the violin my favorite instrument [actually, I'm a fan of all of the string instruments...and a cello in the right hands can be amazingly therapeutic] I figured that was the place to start.

I wound up buying a violin kit off of eBay for $0.99 (plus $40 in shipping an handling) and it is not the best instrument -- I'm embarrassed to admit that I own it,  much less actually show it to my violinist friends -- but through several modifications, a new bow, a few sets of strings it has served me well enough, and it seems like each time I consider purchasing a real instrument some unexpected large-ticket purchase suddenly becomes necessary. C'est la vie. Or maybe it's a sign from the universe. Anyway.

Once I had the instrument came the task of learning how to play (Professional musicians make it look so effortless. Be not fooled: It is not easy.). And how to read music. And how to stay in tune. And how to maintain something resembling a steady tempo.

Oh, did I mention I haven't played anything before. I was starting from scratch. And as a fretless instrument, the violin family doesn't worry easily. It also makes it difficult to find the correct note consistently until you develop both the ear and muscle memory.

I've been fortunate to have an awesome teacher -- who in an interesting twist of fate, despite neither of us originally being from Cleveland, is a friend of the family and was pen pals with my mother as a child -- to keep me on the right track over the past few years. With her help my ear has slowly gained accuracy and we've attacked music and technique (currently working on Suzuki Book 3, third position and a few other things as time allows) -- I just wish I had more time to commit to practicing. But I am making progress (and recently I've noticed that my ear will really tell me when certain notes just aren't quite right.

But why am I posting about this today (aside from the fact that I'm taking a brief early-summer vacation from scheduled commitments)? I was walking back from my violin lesson and a quick lunch with Rachel with my violin on my back and my bag with music by my side.

Just past Coventry there was a gentleman walking his dog. I prepared, with the customary "pardon me"... and as I walked past, with my iPod ear buds firmly in place I hear "Is that a violin?". That caught me off guard. I pulled the ear buds out and said "yes" -- while the dog pulled. Turns out the gentleman is a drummer, and we discussed the technical side of music and the challenges of learning for a couple blocks, until he and his dog, Blu, had made it back home and I was continuing on to mine.

It's awfully easy today to be paranoid and antisocial -- but most people on the street aren't out to get you (just like you aren't out to get them) -- and it you can have some really interesting encounters and conversations if you're just open to it.


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