I’m thirty-six years old, and there are a lot of things I still want to do in life. Last weekend, after hearing the Cleveland Orchestra play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, I decided I would learn to play the violin.
I took piano lessons as a kid, but the thing that got me in the end (besides laziness and inadequate wingspan) was that pesky bass clef. It’s a very busy instrument, the piano, and my left hand never fully cooperated the way it was supposed to. I always pounded out the melody, fudged the harmony, and pumped the pedals with a leaden foot.
The violin, however, is a simple, unassuming instrument with a pittance of strings. So rudimentary is the violin, that you could probably play it with your hands tied behind your back. I was fairly certain it was the perfect instrument for me, and, lo! I had an opportunity to try it when I took the V-meister to see a school friend make her debut with the childrens’ orchestra.
The concert was part of the family music series, and the kids in attendance were given the chance to try different instruments before the performance began. V-meister didn’t want anything to do with any of it, but I couldn’t stay away from the violin table. After circling it for several minutes, I finally asked one of the orchestra volunteers if I could give it a go, and she said, “Why not? You look about twelve” (Not really, but it was implied.)
Just between you and me, I half expected that violin to play itself. And so I was rather taken aback at how awkward it felt, how cumbersome . . . how . . . how . . . downright difficult it actually was. I couldn’t even figure out how to hold the bow without the docent’s assistance, much less guide my paws into position on the strings. And the sound it made when I finally managed to put it all together was absolutely pitiful. I handed the violin back and ran away.
But don’t think for a minute that my musical dream has been dashed. The violin is all the more enticing because of the challenge it poses. And really, I just want to
learn how to hold the damn thing without poking myself in the eye with it play for my own pleasure and perhaps the P-Dawg’s, who I plan to serenade by firelight (when I’m not busy hobnobbing with Franz Welser-Möst at Severance Hall, that is.)
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