Da Musically Inclined Bomb

DePauw University's First Year Seminar on Writing about Music

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Week 1: An Unstable Musical Life

Around 13 years ago, I became interested in music. I had no heroes, no music idols; I just wanted to play. I asked Santa Claus for a piano. Apparently Santa Claus did not have the money for a piano but did have the money for a very cheap violin. This did not phase me. I held the scroll under my chin and smiled at my mom and dad and said, "Look! Santa brought me a violin!" This was where it all began.

I began taking lessons the summer following that Christmas. By the time I had reached the third grade, the orchestra teacher at my elementary school had found that I was more advanced than several in her class. Even though students were not allowed in the elementary orchestra until the fourth grade, I became an exception. The teacher, however, lacked many, if not all, teaching skills. We played "Twinkle, Twinkle" until I graduated. If it had not been for my private lessons, I would not have progressed at all.

Upon entering junior high school I had no desire to play the violin. The less than adequate teacher I had had previously made me believe that the violin was not for me. Fortunately my parents pushed me along and assured me that orchestra would be different in junior high. To my great surprise, it was. There were more students and the teacher was an actual orchestra teacher. He knew what he was doing and for the first time in my orchestra career, I heard what an orchestra was supposed to sound like. The different sections had different parts; there were harmonies and melodies. It was only a junior high orchestra but it was beautiful.

As I progressed further in my playing, I realized that our Floyd Central Symphony Orchestra was not as great as I had always seen. Many of the students did not try their best and as I progressed, they stayed behind, making the music sound out of tune and displeasing. I did not sign up for orchestra at the beginning of eighth, ninth, or tenth grade but my teacher had gone to my parents on all three occassions and convinced them that I needed to stay in orchestra because I had a "natural talent." So I stayed.

When I was in the tenth grade, I knew our orchestra was not at the level I would have prefered so I looked into community orchestras. I found one for my county, the Floyd County Youth Symphony. I joined and was temporarily satisfied. My second year proved to be much less sastisfying. They had joined the younger orchestra with the older orchestra due to a drop in participants. The younger children only brought the orchestra down. Within two weeks I dropped the orchestra. I found instead a larger and more advanced community orchestra, the Louisville Youth Orchestra's Symphony Orchestra. It was what I had been looking for all along. It was made up of an older crowd and the musicians were only there because they wanted to be. Since they wanted to be there, they tried their best and as a result, the orchestra sounded amazing.

In the summer before my senior year in high school, I began to teach violin lessons privately for spending money. After several months with my students, I began to see improvement. It was not small and minimally noticeable improvement either; it was enormous and obvious. I was amazed at my own teaching abilities. I began to feel this great pride after each of my students' lessons. By Christmas of that year, I knew what I wanted to do for a living. I was going to be a teacher.

Now I am here at DePauw's School of Music. I'm here not only to improve upon my own violin performance abilities, but to learn how to teach others as well. Here I will learn to pass on my knowlege of music to younger generations.


At 8/24/2006 9:04 PM, Blogger Dennis Fuller said...

what an accomplished musician, with such an extensive background. maybe one day i'll be as driven as you. yea right.

At 8/25/2006 5:30 PM, Blogger iheart-t-ravs said...

wow...you went through a lot to get what you want. Kudos to staying so driven! I know you'll be an awesome teacher!

At 8/25/2006 7:09 PM, Blogger Becca said...

Rock on! I'm glad you found your passion in teaching - that was a very lucky chance for you. The world always needs more teachers, especially passionate ones.

I'm so glad I met you, Alex. In high school I would have taken one look at your dreadlocks and piercings and never would have given you the time of day. But I would have been horribly and miserably wrong. You're so cool in so many ways, and I'm glad to be here and have my narrow-minded perspective kicked into focus. Thank you for that.

At 8/26/2006 3:14 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

That's awesome that you have already found your passion for teaching. I know you will succeed at whatever you decide.

At 8/27/2006 11:08 AM, Blogger Renee said...

Alex, I noticed you mentioned you began learning to play in elementary school. That seems so young! What grade did you start, exactly? AND did you think that was a good age to start or were the children not focused?
(Does a question count as a comment?)

At 8/27/2006 12:30 PM, Blogger Vera Lynn Waters said...

hey, first i want to say thanks to everybody for the compliments. they make my day so much better. and renee, i began playing in the 2nd grade. to tell you the truth, i'd have liked to have started out earlier. but when i joined the tiny elementary orchestra i could tell that not many of the kids were very focused. they were probably just put in there by their parents. i think they had the ability to focus, but didn't because we had a crappy teacher who didn't push us or even help us along. i think everyone, like me, was bored. and the saddest part of it all is that only 2 of us in that orchestra are still doing music. so many of them quit before we left the elementary school and most of them did it because of our teacher. that's why i want to be a teacher, so that i can do things right where people in my past have done me wrong.


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