May 3, 2009
Back in November my husband got me a viola. I messed around with it for a couple of months, then found a teacher and started taking lessons in February. Even though I've been playing music my whole life, and played viola a bit as a kid, and have played bass at least 25 years, the going has been slow. I am no prodigy. I'm not even remotely very good, or even a little good. I work hard to correct one mistake only to discover another, more egregious one that needs to be corrected. What I play doesn't sound very musical at all.
A few weeks ago my teacher emailed all her students about an upcoming Spring Recital, and when she mentioned it to me at the next lesson I smiled brightly and said, "oh, I don't think I'll play this time around, but I'd love to come watch." She informed me that the recital was not optional and gave me two tiny Bach minuets to learn - maybe a minute forty apiece - and started me down the road to heartache.
For the past several weeks I've practiced as much as two hours a day. I've run the songs; I've done lots of spot practice; I've played at tempo, and above, and way below. The fingertips of my left hand have green-gray dents in them. My husband can sing both of the songs, and has started learning one of them on guitar, and I can play them both beautifully on the bass. And on the viola I just suck. The tone is bad. I'm out of tune. It screeches. I suck. And the recital is tomorrow night.
At this recital there will be an accompanist playing piano. I have never met this accompanist and in fact haven't ever played viola accompanied by a pianist. The few times my teacher has played along with me at lessons, my brain went "ooh, shiny harmony!" and my playing promptly went to hell. At my lesson last week I asked my teacher a few questions about this accompanist: will we have a chance to practice with her? No. What tempo will she play; should I be prepared to tell her a beats-per-minute number? Oh, didn't I mention this to you? The way we do it in classical music is, we sniff. Sniff? Like counting it off, but with sniffs instead of "one, two, three?" No, only one sniff. Which has to be precisely the length of a quarter-note. Oh man, you have got to be shitting me. To practice, she had me stand still thinking of my tempo, not nodding or tapping my foot or anything, just suddenly giving one big snnnniffffff which of course was never precisely the length of a quarter note because who the fuck can think about making a big (but precise) sniffff when 1) you've been brought up all your life not to make noise like that, and 2) you have other things to worry about, like playing in tune?
Tomorrow evening I will drive 45 minutes to some church in St Pete and play these two little songs, which will take less time than it takes me to run my fastest mile. And then I will die, and then I will get into my car and drive 45 minutes home. I am dreading this thing more than I have dreaded any 5k.
Posted by joe positive at May 3, 2009 6:38 PM
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Something happened to me when I hit 40. I decided that I'd spent too much of my life engaged in entirely discretionary activities that I really didn't want to do because other people insisted that I do them. So I started saying no.
I still do the required stuff, of course. But I decide (and, in some cases, the law, logic and common human decency) what's "required." This humiliating sufferfest you describe doesn't sound like it's going to do anyone any good. Your issue isn't performing the pieces. It's playing them, which you're having trouble with under the best of circumstances.
What would actually happen if you skipped the recital? Grounded for a week? No TV privileges? Or would this teacher actually refuse to work with you going forward? Is she capable of listening to reason?
Posted by: Julie at May 4, 2009 5:44 AM
lol...Aw! Don't be so down on yourself! No matter what happens, at least you could walk away knowing that you had the courage to try :)
Posted by: janelle at May 6, 2009 10:43 AM
LOL. You will nail it, I have no doubt. I look forward to the complete report. Snifffff. :)
Posted by: Mindi at May 6, 2009 7:40 PM