Non-Fiction

What Playing the Violin Has Taught Me About Perseverance

I first picked up a violin when I was eight years old.

That was almost nine years ago now, but I can still remember thinking that I was going to be able to pick up the instrument for the very first time and somehow be able to play it perfectly. I soon came to terms with the fact that it wasn’t going to be that easy. I realised that it was going to take hours, years of practice, even, before I was going to be anywhere near close to the standard that I wanted to be and that the professional musicians that I’d seen and heard had a drive — a passion — that I was going to have to develop if I wanted to do well.

Since discovering that, it’s been a frustrating, but ultimately rewarding journey. There have been so many moments where I’ve wanted to throw my violin out of the window, so many times where all I’ve wanted to do was give up, because my playing sounded too scratchy, or because I could never play in tune, or because a performance went horribly wrong. Sometimes it felt like, no matter how hard I tried, there were just some things that I would never be able to do. I remember having to work for over six months just to be able to do vibrato with my fourth finger, because I’m double jointed. To an outside eye, that probably seems like such an insignificant thing, but when you’re working so hard every day for something that never seems to come, you begin to question why you’re even bothering in the first place.

It turns out that the progress I was making was monumental; I just wasn’t letting myself believe it.

The turning point for me finally came when I walked into one of my weekly lessons, and my teacher put a movement from one of Mozart’s sonatas in front of me on the music stand. I remember being so shocked; I’d never recognized the composer of one of my pieces before, and the first time I had, it was Mozart, of all people. If the word “legend” could ever apply to someone from the classical period of music, it would be Mozart; pretty much everyone, whether they know it or not, has heard some of his music. I was pleasantly surprised by just how easily playing the piece came to me; even the new techniques that were being thrown at me left, right and centre didn’t prove to be much of a challenge. I really was improving and finally realizing that most definitely re-sparked my interest in playing; it made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could really go somewhere with this.

Four violins, nine years and countless hours of practice later, I finally feel justified to call myself a musician.

Fourth finger vibrato comes easily to me now, and apart from the odd note or two, my playing is no longer scratchy or out of tune. My love for my instrument has grown enormously, and performing in front of people has become something that I look forward to rather than dread. The buzz that I get before I take to the stage is one of my favorite feelings now, and I always revel in the applause I get at the end, because I know that I’ve worked hard for it; I know that I deserve it.

If you could go back and tell 8-year-old me that I’m sitting here today having just started my Grade 7 pieces, she would laugh in your face. It would have seemed so out of reach to me back then; it seemed impossible just a few years ago, even, but a lot of practice, hard work, tears, aching arms and broken strings are all what led me to where I am now. They’re why I no longer run away from performing. They’re why I can finally play pieces by Borowski, and Mozart, and Beethoven, and Handel. They’re why I have a love and a passion for something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Perseverance takes you a long way.

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