Da Musically Inclined Bomb

DePauw University's First Year Seminar on Writing about Music

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

An Unstable Musical Life DRAFT 2

Around 13 years ago, I became interested in music. I had no heroes, no music idols; I just wanted to play. I asked Santa Clause for a piano. Apparently Santa did not have the money for a piano but did have the money for a very cheap violin. This did not faze 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; it was the summer before I was to enter the second grade. By the time I had reached the third grade, the orchestra teacher at my elementary school had found that I was more advanced than many older students already in her class. Even though students were not allowed in the elementary orchestra until the fourth grade, I quickly 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 any longer. The less than adequate teacher I had had previously made me believe that the violin was not for me. I did not sign up for orchestra. Fortunately my parents pushed me along. I played a couple of excerpts for the orchestra teacher and I remember him saying, “Dang, you can play. You’re in.” My parents 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 occasions and convinced them that I needed to stay in orchestra because I had a "natural talent." So I stayed.

At this point in time, the violin was becoming less and less appealing. The only thing that really kept me trying was the competition. There wasn’t much of it; in fact there was only one person to be competitive with. I fought with this small blond girl every year for the better chair. To tell the truth, if it hadn’t been for her, I would have had no reason to push myself and I wouldn’t be where I am today.

When I was in the tenth grade, I knew our orchestra was not at the level I would have preferred so I looked into community orchestras. I found one for my county, the Floyd County Youth Symphony. I joined and was temporarily satisfied. I progressed quickly up through the chairs of seconds to firsts until there was nothing left. Therefore my second year proved to be much less satisfying. They also 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.

I auditioned late for the LYO. My audition was okay and the conductor placed me in the back of the first violins. We rotated and kept auditioning for first stand. I never tried. To this day I don’t know why I didn’t try. The conductor couldn’t stand me. I sat in the back of the firsts and never pushed myself any further. I didn’t like him much either. I felt he judged me and in return I brought his judgments to life. I was a punk. The following year I was not going to audition for shear hatred of the man conducting the orchestra. To my surprise there was a new conductor that year, so I figured I would give it a try. I didn’t find this out until a week before auditions but I grabbed a random piece of music and ran with it. I somehow was placed as Assistant Concertmaster. I was so surprised and yet vastly pleased. It made me feel as if someone had faith in me; somebody liked my playing. I tried hard that year to make the new conductor happy with his decision. He was so nice and he helped us instead of humiliating us. I don’t think he regretted his decision.

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 knowledge of music to younger generations.

Link to first draft.


At 9/13/2006 1:25 PM, Blogger Emily Rose said...

I think that a large part of teching is the comfort level you provide for your students. I think it's really cool that after a brief period of time you managed to improve your students' skills. In order for students to improve, they must feel comfortable with their teacher. I do not know how many violin teachers I went through before I met one that did not freak me out when I had a lesson. Needless to say, I did not improve much until I started lessons with that teacher.

At 9/16/2006 10:38 AM, Blogger Renee said...

Did you go to a different school district in middle school? I'm a little confused how the students who were limited to "Twinkle Twinkle" suddenly became so advanced. Or maybe it was the teacher?

At 9/16/2006 10:45 AM, Blogger Renee said...

Isn't it amazing how a desire like "wanting" can make a huge difference in an ensemble? I know from both our expierences... as prospective teachers, we need to make the class room appealing, offering incentitives to make the students WANT to play. A group of middle school students who want to play sound so much more advanced then an ordinary group there for the "easy A."

At 9/17/2006 2:25 PM, Blogger iheart-t-ravs said...

I'm so glad to know that you were so happy with your students' improvements and you felt so proud. It really sucks when you have a teacher that doesn't care or doesn't make an effort to make you feel comfortable. Lessons can really not be fun if you don't like your teacher.

At 9/17/2006 3:51 PM, Blogger Emily Rose said...

Another comment: Your conducter sounded very similar to my choir teacher in high school. Except my choir teacher kissed my butt. However, it is the same uncomfortable feeling with a director. I have been in many auditions where I just didn't feel comfortable trying. It can be really depressing looking back on it, but I feel like I am more likely to try now, even if I hate the director. :)

At 9/17/2006 4:38 PM, Blogger Becca said...

Re: the LYO conductor change... That's pretty sweet. Sometimes all it takes is the right person at the right time to make the right things happen. Good for you.

At 9/17/2006 7:56 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

That is very admirable to be a teacher. Something I don't share with most people is I have always had a desire to be a teacher. So my secrets out on blogger! I don't know if I could. Good work on the writing


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