by Caren Crane
Dearest Banditas and Buddies, I have a confession to make. In my misspent youth, I devoted hours every day to study and practice of a cruel instrument of torture. I evoked scorn in my siblings, forbearance in my parents and derision in my friends. I suffered bodily pain and nauseating uncertainty on a daily basis. Some of you may have suffered a similar sort of obsession in your youth. My dear ones, I was a slave to...the violin.
Please do not mistake my devotion for actual talent. God gave me a boundless love of beautiful music and a very modest gift for it. I am not being modest, as Johann Sebastian Bach was when he referred to "the small talents for music which Heaven had granted him." No, I seriously have only a competence for playing violin. That is about what one can expect from 10 years of public school strings ensemble/orchestra and zero private instruction, so I try to be content.
Another confession: I have taken up playing violin again. This is after a 28-year hiatus. Twenty-eight years. Some of you haven't been alive that long! To recap: 10 years of enthusiastic, but dubious, study and instruction followed by 28 years of almost never touching my violin. This doesn't seem like it would bode well for my abilities these days. Believe me, it doesn't!
But I looked around at my little nest after we moved the second child to college last month. I scanned my calendar. I noted all the free time I have now that my neediest child is away for much of the year. I noted, with an aching heart, that my youngest - my baby! - is now a senior in high school. I wondered how I would fill the time after she, too, goes away to school. The answer seemed both obvious and crazy to me: start playing violin again.
So, I contacted a man at church who encourages members of the congregation every fall to "dust off their instruments" and join the String Ensemble. He was initially excited that I was interested, but was disconcerted with my level of need. I don't think he took me seriously when I said I hadn't played in 28 years. He figured out pretty quick, though, that I was in no way exaggerating my rustiness. (Actual portrait of me playing violin in high school - hand-tinted sepia, which was all the rage in the 20s!)
I picked up my long-neglected violin 12 days ago. Since then, I have spent lots of money on new strings, a new bridge, a new sound post, 2 new shoulder rests, a new chin rest, a new bow and getting my old bow rehaired (not to mention the labor that went into setting up the new bridge and soundpost). I remembered that I like the guys in the fiddle shop much better than the snooty "luthier" who caters to professional musicians. I also learned from the snooty luthier that my violin has a level fingerboard - a near-fatal flaw according to this guy and the source of some back pain. He looked quite disgusted when I told him I couldn't afford another violin, so I was going to have to work around it.
My fatally-flawed violin and I have been practicing - okay, relearning - absolutely everything in the past 12 days. We have also rekindled a deep affection for Bach. I am working on a Bach menuet for an audition with the Really Terrible Orchestra Of the Triangle (that's a real thing - Google it!). I may be too terrible for them; time will tell. I do know that my left-hand fingers have never been so sore and that I haven't been this happy in years.
So do you have an interest, hobby or love have you rediscovered from your misspent youth? Or do you have something in mind you would like to take up "one of these days"? Do share! And if you have any suggestions for toughening up tender fingertips, please pass them along. :)