Today I’m giving my very first violin lesson. I figured that in honor of this exciting day, I’d write about how I came to play the violin in the first place. Enjoy!
My musical life began when I was just a little girl visiting my grandparents on the weekend. My grandpa would come down the stairs singing his original song: “Goooood morning everybody, good morning. How’s my little Abigail, how are you today?” On and on it went. As a boy, my grandpa never had any musical training; he simply grew up to have a great appreciation for it. He made songs for all different things, including one about our dog, Cindy, “Retuuuuurn the Cindah! Return that pooch! We don’t need another mooch!”
Having served in the military, he loved band marches and some mornings, would play John Philip Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis” while marching around the house waving a giant American flag while I trailed behind waving a small one of my own. (I’m not making this up. My aunt told me that my grandpa used to do this when she would bring a boy home that she liked.)
When my grandpa and I drove to church on Sunday mornings, we would sing pre-school favorites like “Old MacDonald,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” but my personal favorite was when he would sing “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” while pushing me and my best friend at the time, Matthew (until he discovered I was a girl, or as legend has it) on a bench swing, back and forth.
On Sunday nights, my grandparents would drive me home and play the oldies (but goodies) that they listened to growing up. I learned the words to every song on the cassette. My personal favorite was The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”. I even made a dance to it. Music was something I learned anyone could do, even without special training.
Although I seemed to have a natural ability for learning the words and tunes to the songs I heard, it wasn’t until I took music class in elementary school that I realized just how much I loved music. Mr. Lynch, my music teacher, had our class listen to classical pieces and taught us about all the different instruments in an orchestra. The best part of music class was when we began to play various instruments. I played the xylophone for the first time and in the third grade, I learned how to play the recorder. I missed the first day of reading music but somehow taught myself how to understand this new secret language that none of my family understood. I felt like a little spy.
By the fourth grade it was time to pick an instrument to play for the next year in middle school. Since I had experienced success with the xylophone and recorder, I was convinced I would be just as talented on all the more sophisticated instruments we were going to try.
The first instrument was the bongos. I immediately realized that this was not going to be as easy as I expected. How was it possible for anyone to use one hand to hit one drum with one rhythm and the other hand to hit another drum with another rhythm? I was not coordinated enough for this.
My faith hadn’t been completely shaken yet, though. I still had plenty of instruments to try, right? But as I tried the next set of band instruments (the flute, the clarinet, and the trumpet) I quickly learned that my musical talent had ended with the recorder. If I needed my lips to play it, it wasn’t going to happen. How did anyone play these instruments without seriously getting lightheaded?
But just before my musical dreams shattered, we tried the violin. Finally, an instrument that didn’t require my mouth to make a sound. The wooden body fit under my chin perfectly. The bow felt natural in my hand. And within one class, Mr. Lynch asked me to help other students as they also tried it.
And so when I came home one day to my dad’s house for a weekly visit (I hadn’t yet moved in with him) and he asked that we carefully decide which instrument I would play next year so we could hand in the right paperwork I told him I had already made the decision and handed in my paperwork. It was obvious. I didn’t choose the violin. The violin chose me.