The Cost of Choice

June 21, 2010

Beth Blackerby, owner of ViolinLab, recently described the experience of dealing with latent emotions that surfaced when she took on her first adult student several years ago.  She writes :

“…because I started as a child, I had never experienced what my adult student had: the burning desire to learn the violin; the self-propelling passion that comes from choice, the will to continue because it was what I wanted more than anything.”

I would like to thank Ms. Blackerby for raising this topic, because it is a tough one to discuss.  Most of us, musicians or not, are so busy with gigs, work, family commitments and life in general that there is little time for self-reflection.  But I can’t help but think that the feelings referenced in her beautifully-phrased, wrenchingly-honest quote are related to some factor other than age.  Why?  Because Ms. Blackerby described perfectly and precisely what I did experience as a child of seven, then eight, and finally nine, when I was allowed to start lessons.   I was prepared, ready and determined to do great things with the violin.  But when I failed to meet expectations — mostly my own — I was not prepared for the emotional aftermath.

Playing the violin was a choice, the first real choice I ever made.  I didn’t have to be prodded, cajoled, bribed or threatened to practice.   On the other hand, maybe choice isn’t the right description, because I have always felt compelled by something that I could not explain, driven by a desire that I can only describe in terms that are probably not suitable for younger audiences.   The childlike amazement and wonder, as well as pigheaded stubbornness remain some thirty-five years later, and I am no closer to being able to explain it today than I was as a child.

Playing the violin was also empowering.  People paid attention to me when I played, although at the time I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.  I was labeled “talented,” “gifted,” “special,” as if those words all meant the same thing (they don’t).   I didn’t understand why; I simply read the directions at the front of the book, did what they said, and checked my effort against the reference LP.  (The directions are, by the way, exactly the same today, but with more pictures.)   And I was sufficiently rewarded for my direction-following skills by moving through the repertoire at lightning speed:  all ten Suzuki violin books in about six years.   It took me a lot longer to learn that the more you achieve, the more people expect from you.

I’ve heard of students who “see the light” after they’ve been playing for a few years and suddenly outperform everyone in a studio.   As a teenager, I saw it firsthand in my own teacher’s studio.   One day, Kris was average, a couple of grades and a couple of books behind the advanced kids.  No one suspected a thing, because she was so quiet and did her best to stay under the radar. And then, out of nowhere, BANG! She killed at All-State seating auditions, earning Violin I, chair 4 (out of 40 first violins and 40 seconds.)  To the best of my fuzzy recollection, the highest I ever sat was Violin 1-9.  It was a clarion call for me, discouraging and painful.   Because I was in the second violin section that year (3rd chair) and she sat directly to my right, I was constantly reminded of how I failed to meet expectations.  Deep down, I knew I should have been sitting where Kris sat.  I had let my teachers and parents down.  I had disappointed myself.   I had been a horrible model for my classmates.

There is a cost associated with that passion, that desire to obtain regardless of any consequences.   The emotional toll of choice is not a topic of general discussion or debate during orchestra breaks.  I don’t know, maybe most other violinists don’t have problems with it.   Or maybe many do, but they are convinced that no one else would understand.

Outside the world of music, economists call it “opportunity cost.”  Psychologists label it OCD, and in “advanced” stages it can be crippling.  In my case, it manifested as depression. I was able to get it diagnosed and treated before it ended my academic and performance careers, but not before it cost me a marriage, relationships with other people I loved and respected, much emotional and psychological devastation, and deeply-rooted performance anxiety.  It is still difficult to admit it, much less talk about it, and it is much more complicated than I can discuss here.

The specialness has long since worn off.  I’m skilled, well-trained, not talented or special.  I am a realist, although my husband says I’m much too critical of myself.  (A musician he is not. But he makes pies and cakes and enchiladas for me.  And the programmer-slash-analyst in him doesn’t look at me like I have two heads when I ask a stupid computer question. So I think I’ll keep him.)   I am no longer willing to give up everything for the violin.  While I strive to be extraordinary and can easily hold my own professionally, the reality is that I am just an average violinist among thousands of other average violinists trying to buy groceries.

Dreams come and go, evolve, and help us grow.   Sometimes they even come true.   Dreams keep us alive, keep us motivated.   But they can become nightmarish in the absence of reason and sense.   And age has very little to do with it.   This I know from experience.


An Ode To My Teachers, Part 4: The Purple Cow

June 15, 2010

Artistic integrity is much more profound when it comes from a person who is perceived to be authentic.  Teachers whose integrity comes from a place of empathy, understanding, and from not being particularly concerned with political correctness often have a lot of success in dealing with tweens and teens.  The students see them as being “real.”  One particular teacher stands out as my example of the importance of being who you are and doing what you do unapologetically, energetically, honestly, and with humility.  You never know whose life will be touched by the simple act of being genuine.

When I was in sixth grade, I received an invitation to join the Greater Des Moines Youth Symphony.  Even though I was the youngest player in the group, Mr. Brauninger (the conductor that year) steered me to a seat in the back of the first violin section and thus began my education in standard orchestral repertoire.  We played “real” music, music that lived in another realm that I had not even imagined in my wildest dreams, music like Saint Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture and Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait (the program of the first concert I played with the group).  I continued performing with the GDMYS through my senior year.  There was a new conductor every couple of years or so, and when I hit high school, the new conductor was Sandy Tatge.

Mrs. Tatge was incomparable.  I had never had a teacher like her.  Ever.  Or since.  She was one of those teachers who impressed me multiple ways.  To me, she was the Epitome of Coolness and Rad.  She had long, gorgeous, curly, fiery red hair that was always perfectly controlled, but looked like it would run away and do its own thing at any available opportunity.  She boldly wore purple, magenta and a host of other bright neon colors, regardless of how badly The Experts said it would clash with her hair.  She accessorized!  Where most female teachers wore scarves or bits of very understated jewelry, Mrs. Tatge had a purple cow pin that she wore religiously to nearly every rehearsal.   We teased her every time she wore it, as teenagers are wont to do, and it became such a “mascot” for our group that we noticed (and teased her again) when she didn’t wear it.   She was very good-natured about it and years later, I often thought that maybe she was just messing with us, to see what our reactions would be if she wore a different pin.

I would never want to intentionally embarrass Mrs. Tatge, but I hope that she doesn’t mind if I tell this story, because it has held such a special place in my memory all these years.  One day after a summer chamber music rehearsal, she graciously agreed to go WAY out of her way to give me a ride home.  She put the key in the ignition and … her face suddenly got this Look that said “Uh-oh, THAT was what I forgot.”  Out of the speakers, which were cranked to window-rattling decibels, wafted not the classical stuff I expected, but classic rock courtesy of KGGO.  My jaw hit the floorboard in absolute amazement.  She looked at me, winked, turned down the volume a smidge, and said that we really SHOULD be listening to something more appropriate, more educational.  But the station stayed where it was.  That sealed it for me.  I would Defend The Honor Of The Purple Cow to the death, if necessary.  She became in that moment The! Greatest! Teacher! Ever!

I remember very little of what we performed in Youth Symphony, but I have never forgotten that moment of authenticity and how important it became a few years later when I started teaching.

To be continued…

Achieving Excellence, Old School

June 14, 2010

At the end of the school year, I often find myself with an overabundance of thoughts about teaching, studenting, parenting, playing, and wondering about the whys and what-ifs of violining.   I am a Violin Geek, after all.   So, in honor of the beginning of summer,  I’m going to do a few posts based on ideas that wouldn’t ordinarily be something I’d post.  Sort of  like a politically incorrect “Dear Violin Diary” entry.  Please feel free to discuss in the comments if I stomp on your toes or otherwise offend you with my rambling.  Don’t worry, I’ll keep it at least PG-13.

Most of what I’ve been thinking about lately seems to be related to student performances.  I’ll start the mayhem that may ensue by saying that the standard is excellence, period.  All Suzuki teachers worth their salt know this.  We are immersed in it from the first hour of “Every Child Can.”

I have alluded to having a ton of fun early on playing the violin.  But there was a price for having fun:  you were expected to work for it.  We were exceptionally lucky in Des Moines and West Des Moines to have teachers who made it seem like we weren’t really working.  Everything we did seemed to spring forth magically from some inner spark we didn’t know we had.  All the teachers had a single common trait, even though they were all very different people: they made it easy for us to learn.  Orchestra was fun!  Unless you weren’t in your seat ready to play when the first bell rang.  Or when you had to miss a concert because of bad behavior, to which I can attest from personal experience.

As I reflect on my Suzuki past, various themes begin to emerge.  One of those themes is excellence from the beginning, many years before the SAA actually printed it in the ECC manual.  The Teacher — whether it was Mr. Brauninger, Mrs. Brauninger, Mrs. Naughton, Mr. Schneider, Mrs. Tatge, Mrs. Kutscher, Mrs. Pope, Mrs. Granias, or Mrs. Morgan (did I forget anyone?) — expected everyone to do it right, no excuses.  It didn’t matter if you were a beginner taking your first tentative steps, or a seasoned student studying the Mendelssohn concerto.

Everyone I played with in elementary, junior and high school orchestras, even though we were all at different levels in the repertoire, understood that bad intonation and backward bowing were not going to be tolerated.  If you were the culprit, it made you look like you hadn’t practiced, or worse, that you didn’t care.  If you were having trouble, you were expected to put in as much extra time as it took to get it right, or have extra lessons with the director to fix it.  Our teachers, in turn, had no problems pulling us aside when necessary and telling us — gently and with much encouragement — that we were not working to our potential.  The more advanced you were, the more was expected from you by the teachers and your fellow students.  You were considered a leader, whether you wanted to be or not.

In return for our commitment to excellence, we got bragging rights.  (I can brag about my high school, right? WDM Valley. Go Tigers!)  We consistently received  I+ large-group ratings at state music contests.  We placed significant numbers of string players in the Iowa All-State Orchestra, more than any other metro high school.  People wanted to pay us to come play at their events.  Other schools asked for our musicians to fill pit orchestras for their musicals.  We had a reputation for consistent excellence, and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been a part of, to this day.

On our all-city Suzuki concerts, if you didn’t have your portion of the concert list memorized and correct, if it didn’t meet the performance standard well in advance of the performance, you didn’t play it.  End of story.  This rarely happened; review was so ingrained in our routine that we rarely (if ever) knew in advance what was going to be on the program.  We lined up, the piece was announced, we played, applause, rinse, repeat.  Talk about overconfidence in our abilities!  Today, we think teachers who do that are disorganized, looking for trouble, crazy, setting their kids up to fail.

Our teachers made it impossible for us to fail.  The standard was objective and specific, and everyone had to meet it regardless of their ability level.  Excellence was the only card on the table; income, race, religion, area of town, where you bought your clothes or what you ate for lunch didn’t matter.  Excellence was The Thing that galvanized our pride in our program, our pride in performance, our desire to reach beyond limitations that we didn’t know we had.  No one ever told us we had limitations, because excellence was beyond limits.  Of course I can speak only for myself, but I think my fellow students from those days might agree.

Achieving excellence is not difficult, especially when it is the only option.  You learned to tie your shoes, right?  You learned to speak your native language, yes?  Did anyone expect you to fail?  Of course not!  You learned because you were expected to, and you were held to the same standard that every other person on the face of the earth is expected to meet, barring physical or psychological barriers, of course.  Our daily tasks and routines become excellent, yet we continue to improve, refine and streamline.  Likewise, playing the violin with excellence is not difficult if it is understood from the beginning that nothing else is acceptable.  Just playing isn’t good enough.  Excellence — not just technical mastery, but of heart and spirit, of love and joy, of sharing a common language — is the standard we are all held to, and indeed I think many of us aspire to.  I hope you do.

We as teachers, parents and coaches are in the success business.  Even the smallest effort, done with excellence, is a success.  Excellence is built from success.  Success is the result of excellence.  This is one of the core tenets of Talent Education.   We are fortunate that the SAA has provided lots of resources to guide and encourage us as teachers and parents.  Especially me, especially this time of year when I feel like I got it wrong a whole lot more than I got it right.  That is for another post.  Heh.

So…what is your opinion about performance standards?  Think about it, because I’ll be continuing on this topic…

Series: An Ode To My Teachers, Part 3 — The Bow Hold

May 18, 2010

Public apologies can be risky, especially when the intended recipient doesn’t have much of an online presence, but remains extremely active and is highly respected in a local community.  I would love to divulge this teacher’s name.  However, I also don’t want to embarrass her or imply in any way, shape or form that she was a bad teacher, because in fact the the reality was quite the opposite:  I was a really bad student.  Influence can be felt and experienced many different ways, and the lesson here is that influence is only as powerful as what you choose to do with it.  For a long time, I did not choose well.  Part of growing up sometimes involves the learning of really difficult lessons.  I am including this part because it is one of those difficult lessons I had to learn, and its far-reaching effects turned out to be such an integral part of not only what I do, but of who I am.

My teacher had a 180-degree different teaching style than Mr. B, and her expectations, while the same as his, were articulated much differently. I pushed her patience to the last frazzle during some of my lessons. For many years after I left her studio, I tried to blame my difficulties with the violin on things she didn’t teach me. To put it another way, I tried to absolve myself of the responsibility of learning anything. If I was required to do any actual work or expend any effort, it became the teacher’s fault when I came up short. She became the perfect mental scapegoat for the excuses I concocted. I ended up becoming a quasi-expert in the art of self-fulfilling prophecy.

For whatever reason, the main focus of lessons became my bow hold. I understand most of the whys and wherefores now, but actually, very little has changed over the years about my bow hold; it is still nearly identical to its 1980s counterpart.  At the time, I was convinced that the fixation on my right hand was holding up My Progress and the process of Getting First Chair At Every Available Opportunity. How was I supposed to master the Flesch Scale System! Rode! and Bruch!! if I had to constantly monitor the offending fingers on my bow! The horror of it! I sometimes think that if she had explained the reasons why it was so important, I might have grasped it on some level. But then I remember that I was The World’s Most Immature Violin Student Ever. So, in retrospect, it was a wise choice on her part to let me continue digging my hole, week after painful week.

Despite this gloom-and-doom portrait I’ve sketched here, there were in fact some good times. That Memorex tape I’ve mentioned in previous posts was made in her living room. She often let me choose my own pieces when I finished the Suzuki repertoire, something that she didn’t allow most of her students to do. I wasn’t very good at choosing, but she never batted an eyelash. She learned those pieces along with me. I felt better at All-State seating auditions knowing that she was a judge, probably rooting for me. And she secured a couple of college auditions for me which resulted in scholarship offers. These memories have affected my teaching, mostly for the better. I used my time in her studio as a guide later for determining technical skill acquisition levels, and as a general how-to-get-along-with-teenagers guide.

If I had done what she asked, would things have been different? Would I have played differently? Would I have made different life choices? I stopped playing violin in 1988. (Obviously I didn’t stay quit, but that’s another post. Actually a book, although I’m pretty sure that if I wrote it, no one would buy it. Heh.)

Did she give up on me? I don’t think so. I think I gave up on her. And I’m sorry I did, because I learned more from her than I ever gave her credit for. Thank you, Teacher.

To be continued…

An Ode To My Teachers, Part 2: Mr. B

May 11, 2010

On Wednesday, October 29, 1975,  I had my first violin lesson.  On that day, I met the man who would change my life forever, and the lives of many, many other young string players in the DMPS:  Jim Brauninger.

It is nearly as difficult for me to articulate the depth of my feelings for Mr. B as it is to explain what the violin means to me.  After all, people are supposed to elicit different responses, emotions, and feelings than objects.  But, for me it’s hard to separate them; it’s on a different level than just being sentimentally attached to an object, or even perhaps a toddler’s security blanket.

I’m pretty sure Mr. B would be initially embarrassed by my paraphrase of Saint John:  in the beginning was the Word and his name was Mr. Brauninger. But, I’m pretty sure he would also understand both the humor and the significance of the event.  When I stepped into that storage room at the end of the second-floor hallway for that first lesson, Mr. B ranked right up there with God in my myopic fourth-grade worldview.  I was in total awe of the violin and the sound it made;  Mr. B was able to put what I wanted to do into words that I could understand, into actions that I could perform.  He gave the violin, and my inarticulate feelings about it, a voice.  He understood me, completely.

Thirty six years later, I am not only still at a loss for all the necessary words to describe my relationship with the violin, but his violin is still The One I hear in my head.  For me, his sound is The Gold Standard. That sound — sweet, honeyed, pure, mellow, rich, burnished, velvety — came out of any violin he played, including my $100 bargain purchase from my older sister.  I get goosebumps when I hear it.  I strive for that sound still, but something remains missing.  It’s as if he was granted some kind of heavenly patent on it.  I’ve heard thousands of violinists over the years, and none of them sounded like Mr. B.  Not even close.  If there is one thing I would desperately love to share with my students, Mr. B’s sound would be it.  If they could hear it, they would enter a new realm of possibility, of knowledge, of passion for learning. If only…

My lessons started in a group class.  There were four of us.  And then there were three.   At the end of the first month, I was moved into a private lesson.  By the end of the school year I had finished book 2.  After that, my lessons were at the Brauninger’s house, which worked out well because the summer between fourth and fifth grade, we moved to West Des Moines.  For a little over five years, he was by turns an encourager, writing silly notes and drawing pictures in my music as reminders of various technical points; a finder of performance opportunities, such as inviting me to join the Greater Des Moines Youth Symphony as a sixth-grader, which exposed me to a whole new world of music and musicians I’d never dreamed possible, and helping me get ready for Bill Riley’s State Fair Talent Search (and then consoling me when I didn’t even receive an honorable mention;) and a procurer of a better instrument when the time came, discovering a lovely 1917 Lyon and Healy violin that needed a new home, for a budget price.

Mr. B coached me from Twinkles through book 9.  I was motivated and competitive.  One of my most desperate wishes from the end of fourth grade forward was to keep up with the older kids:  Jana, Paula, Brad, Krista, the other Brad.  When I performed with them as a “Super Star” on the West Des Moines Spring Suzuki Concert the next year (and for several years after), it was another amazing experience.  It was fun to be “special,” one of the advanced kids.  I wanted to be famous, because I felt noticed and people enjoyed listening.  At the time, local fame was good enough, but I yearned for more.  It sounds very juvenile now, but at the time it was what it was.  [Truth be told, fame is still there in the back of my head. Yes, I still want to be famous, but for very different reasons and in a much different way. And it’s another story for another day.]

Because of his gentle spirit, Mr. B saw things a little differently.  For him, music was an extension of, a release for his relationship with God, an easy, natural, even organic form of worship.  And teaching was his ministry.  He knew I went to church, so I’m guessing that he thought that I was on the same wavelength, that I could understand the concepts of relationship he pulled out of his violin so effortlessly.  Unfortunately, I was not even on the same planet and began to become uncomfortable with the assumption that I too should/could express my relationship with God through certain pieces of music, specifically Bach.  I couldn’t do it.  Maybe I just didn’t want to.  I chalked it up later to being a wildly-hormonal teenager.  Not long after I started complaining about lessons being too “religious,” a spot suddenly opened up in another studio in town and I switched teachers.

Many years later, when I had reflected on my life to that point and decided that I needed to apologize to many people, I wrote to Mr. B. When I left his studio, he never said a word, even though I still sat in orchestra for him and such.  I had much to apologize for. In his reply, he was quick to laugh off my bad behavior and humorously pointed out his own shortcomings in the temper department.  His graciousness and wisdom taught me more about the violin I think than all the years of actual instruction I’ve had ever did.

Mr. Brauninger passed away a few years ago.  I miss him, and regret that I had not been able to tell him in person how much he meant to me.  I often wish for his advice, his counsel, his friendship, his wonderful sense of humor and occasional silliness.  I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with him, though, and I pass on as much as I can to my own students.

To be continued…

Series: How I Came To Be A Violinist, or An Ode To My Teachers

April 30, 2010

As I puzzle and process the latest developments in the DMPS orchestra and budget snafu, I’m thinking about teachers. Specifically, the teachers who made significant impressions on my life. They aren’t all music teachers, but they all hold a special place in my heart and my memories, and their legacies are passed on in each of the lessons I teach to my own students. I’d like to share some of those memories here. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

When I started kindergarten, I was a bit of a pill. I had a new baby brother and a life devoted to playing with toys.

I was sort of different. I could read when I started kindergarten. A lot of kids in my generation could read when they started school, but not at James Monroe Elementary School. The thing that excited me most about school wasn’t the library, or the playground or getting to walk to school a whole six (count ’em SIX!) blocks on a busy street by myself, but the CORNERS. The doll corner with its miniature kitchen and dishes, and dolls of all shapes and sizes. The block corner with so many blocks we couldn’t count them all. The book corner which was boring in comparison to all else. Well, except for rest time. Sometimes, I got to sit in the book corner during rest time, which beat resting anytime.

I remember three other things about kindergarten. First, I rarely got to play in the doll corner. To this day, I’m not sure why. Second, Mrs. Schwertley drew a lovely silhouette portrait of each of her students, that we took home later and gave our parents. Third, at some point during the school year I got transferred from the afternoon class to the morning class. My social skills were not as mature as most of my first-semester birthday classmates, and the younger Ks went in the mornings. I had a really hard time with the whole sit-still-and-listen thing. I still do, at least with the sit-still part. Listening is what I do for a living, and I do it well, but it was not one of my better-trained abilities in kindergarten. I was careful, very careful, not to misbehave enough to get sent to the principal’s office. Mrs. Patrick had a paddle and I had heard through the classmate grapevine that she used it when necessary.

Moving on to first grade: same issues, but all day long instead of half days. One minor difference was that I went to the second grade classroom for reading and spelling.  Mid-year, I had my tonsils removed. When I returned to school (it seemed like a month later, but was probably only a couple of weeks), I had managed to do my make-up work so well that I was ahead of the rest of the class by several weeks in some subjects. I often wonder, did I have ADHD before it was “popular?” Was I actually a bully, in today’s terms, instead of hyper or extra-assertive? Ahead of my time? Was it a simple case of jealousy (of my little brother)? Too much sugar? A combination of these things, perhaps? Regardless of what caused it, I can remember being a bossy know-it-all. My hand was either up with the answer, or (much more often) my mouth was inadvertently blurting out the answer.

At some point, my lovely patient teacher Mrs. Cole decided that the most appropriate action was to turn me into A Leader. If I behaved appropriately, I was allowed to wear a Big Yellow Star, that I made myself, pinned to my dress, that authorized me to be A Leader. I don’t remember what I was specifically A Leader of, or even if The Star subdued my impulsiveness or in any other way made me tolerable to my classmates, but I do know that it began to channel the desire a couple of different directions. First, I figured out that not everyone was cool with one person being smarter than everyone else, especially when that one person has no qualms letting everyone know it. I took my share of teasing (and bullying) from kids several grades ahead of me for being “smart.”  I learned that if you are even the least bit Geek, it can be wiser to keep it to yourself until it’s truly needed. And second, I became a teacher, a profession where passion has a direct influence on knowledge retention and student achievement.

When I was in first grade, one magical day changed the course of my life: I heard a violin for the first time. It is one of the most amazing memories I have of my entire childhood. Even now, using words to describe it seems futile, useless, inarticulate. It’s one of those things where only people who have had a similar defining experience can even begin to understand the power and depth of it.  When I remember, the memory is tangible; every sense in my body comes to life.  I can see the classroom like it was yesterday. I can see the performance and remember the piece. I remember the performers, Renee and Danielle, who were only a year older than I.  I get the same goosebumps now that overwhelmed me that day. To this day, it is still so real that I feel like I am actually transported back to Mrs. Wilson’s second grade classroom, sitting on the floor, rising to my feet, eyes bugging out of my head, heart racing, listening to that wonderful, incredible cascade of notes that washed over my ears and instantly commanded my complete focus and attention.

Truth be told, practicing is in fact the only time that I have ever completely focused on anything, my entire life. Which is sort of scary actually. It is amazing that I have never caused a car accident, gotten lost traveling, or started a fire in the kitchen. My grades in college, even though they were very good, were obtained courtesy of not concentrating. My academic papers and research were done while thinking about other important things, like what was for dinner, if I needed to stop for gas on the way home, or if my butt looked big in those pants.  It’s amazing that I gave birth to two babies, because I don’t remember focusing on those activities, either. My whole life has been lived in divided attention mode. Except for when I have a violin in my hands.

I had to wait two more years, until I started fourth grade, to begin violin lessons. Part of the reason was that the school district started strings at fourth grade. I’ve also been told that it was iffy whether I was really serious about playing. It’s strange perhaps that I don’t remember the demo at the beginning of the school year. At all. I do remember being allowed to touch a violin. It felt like I was literally touching something much larger than myself, the face of God perhaps. It was a moment filled with electricity, respect, awe, wonder and wow. Maybe love as well, if you believe that such things can be loved. I’ve experienced only a couple of other moments like that since, that had absolutely nothing to do with music. I remember the general music teacher, Miss Rosalie Peterson, handing me the necessary paper to take home.

And then. And Then!

On Wednesday, October 29, 1975,  I had my first violin lesson. And I met the man who would change my life forever, and the lives of many, many other young string players in the DMPS: Jim Brauninger.

To be continued…