I have always been a lover of music. Indie, classic rock, classical orchestra, jazz, country, even some rap, and in recent years I’ve become very fond of hip-hop too. I think the piano is probably my favorite instrument, watching somebody truly gifted create on those pearly white keys is awe inspiring for me. Lord knows I’ve tried time and time again to master the art but I simply do not have the je ne sais quao.
I’ve tried more than just the piano too. I’ve tried singing simply because it seemed the most accessible but even before my vocal cords got all messed up I lacked the voice. As I got into my adulthood the guitar seemed cool but that hasn’t stuck either. In the fourth grade students could choose between choir, string orchestra, or band for our music hour (or however long it was). Choir was already out but my aunt was willing to let me have her old silver flute. I was so excited, but try as I might I have never been able to make even a peep of sound with it. So that was out.
My best friend at the time was going to give the violin a try so I off course decided I also needed to play. Unfortunately my father informed me that instruments were expensive, and we already had a flute. At the time this seemed incredibly unfair to me, why should I not get a violin if my best friend could? I didn’t like it and I wouldn’t except it.
This is where my quest for a cheap violin began. I don’t remember how I did it, this was 1998 so the internet wasn’t really in play yet, but if one thing can be said about my work ethic it is this. Once I’m told I CAN’T do something, that’s when I WILL do it.
What I do remember is a man in a Scooby Do style van full of moderately priced instruments pulling up in the school parking lot. A few other kids and their parents there, but none of them could slow me down.
I found it, a ratty old violin with a chipped shoulder rest and a mismatched bow all packed up into a hard, black, banged up case complete with a broken lock. It was also a 3/4 size, which was a bit too big for my fourth grade self. It was also $75 though so I knew this was the violin for me.
I was so excited to get my grubby little hands on it! To file into the back seat of my mom’s car with it! I was sure my father would be impressed with my ingenuity when he got home from work.
Looking back on this, I understand why my father put me through this. I played that shitty violin for a few years, until my grandfather who had himself played the violin as a child in Lithuania bought me a new one. By this time I had grown into a full size. The one he bought me was beautiful, shiny with deep reddish-brown wood and a matching bow. It had no unsightly nix plus it came in a soft blue padded case with a strap! It was great.
Even with this far superior violin though I still sucked. I made my way up to the back of the first violin section a couple of times, players would regularly challenge each other to determine our seating order, but I could usually be found somewhere in the middle of the second violin section. My favorite spot was far enough back that the audience wouldn’t be able to hear me over the cellos.
I really never appreciated my orchestra experience like I should have, with the tight friendships it gave me or the ability that I’ve somehow retained to read music. I’ve played around with a few other instruments too since then but nothing sticks. Although I do regret not giving the violin my all I am not bitter about it. I’ve come to terms with the reality that if I truly loved it I would have made it work. I will always be greatful for my opportunities to learn music, it will always be a memory I’m proud of. Who knows, maybe down the road a bit I’ll sit down with some sheet music and figure the piano out for real. Until then though I can always just enjoy the music I’m blessed with in my daily life.