I mentioned to my therapist last week that I hadn’t practiced my violin for a while, and she kind of told me off for “burying my talent” in favor of other pursuits. Over the course of the last week, I have gotten out my violin to practice, mostly in anticipation of a performance at an upcoming family reunion that I should have started preparing for weeks if not months ago. But these are a few thoughts I’ve had on the subject.
I don’t like playing my violin. I have to get it in and out of the case nearly every time I use it, and I’m not very good. I practiced for hours on end when I was in middle school and high school simply because my violin teacher(s) asked me to. I didn’t take much pleasure in it.
My immediate and extended families, mostly my dad’s side, are very music-oriented. Music is an important part of our family traditions and I learned violin partly so I would be able to participate. There was kind of an expectation that when I got to college that I would study music on top of whatever else, if not make that my major. But that wasn’t what I wanted for myself. And of course as soon as I got to BYU and figured out how competitive and labor-intensive the music program there is I knew that wasn’t happening.
I enjoy listening to music but making it is kind of an offense to my inner sloth. Since moving out to college, I have gotten out my violin only for the Fourth of July and Christmas. In fact there aren’t a lot of my friends who know I play the violin at all. But in addition to satisfying my own self-indulgence, not making my violin a part of my regular hobbies has been a kind of rebellion against the family paradigm, or at least my perception of it.
So last week I started playing again. I’ve not only been practicing the piece for my upcoming performance, but I’ve also been playing old Suzuki pieces and favorite hymns to warm up. In light of recent personal struggles, taking time to make music has been refreshing. Somewhere in between and after all the hard hours of practice, I forgot that there are violin pieces that I enjoy playing. I forgot what all those hours of hard work were for--so that I could play the music.
I moved to Arizona my junior year of high school. One of the perks was playing in the high school orchestra. I got my violin in and out of its case every day for eight months. At home I would practice on my aunt’s violin, and I would pick out the hard parts and play them over and over again so I wouldn’t trip up when performance time came. Belonging to a legit high school orchestra was one of the best experiences of my life. I practiced my parts the best I could so that I could felt like I’d earned all of it--because the field trips and the friendships would have meant nothing to me if I’d gone home and slacked off. The last orchestra concert of the year we played a medley from Pirates of the Caribbean with the band and it was amazing. I practiced and practiced and PRACTICED because I love Pirates, I love the music from the films, I went on the ride twice when I went to Disneyland, and I wanted that final performance to be the best it could be--and I wanted my part to be the best it could be.
After high school, I told myself that I would keep playing the violin and singing in church choirs so that I could make other people happy. I’ve done ward choir a lot less than I would have liked, especially after graduation, and I’ve touched my violin even less. But I remembered something last week. I do the things I do--the cosplay, the writing, the fan art and memes--for the same reason that I need to keep up with my music. It’s not about me, it’s about the happiness I can bring to other people when I share my gifts. And those other people include, oddly enough, myself. I practice so that when I’m called on to perform, I can do ____ to the best of my ability. You have to practice hard in order to be good at something, and you learn something ahead of time so you can enjoy it later. You have to master the basics in order to do the hard stuff.
Yes, focusing on my chosen field of study in college was important, but, now especially after graduation, it is also important to focus on all of my talents and interests, to enrich myself in as many ways as possible. Listening to beautiful music is wonderful, but being able to make it is a gift in itself.