Simple Genius

I took a violin lesson last week. I gave fair warning to my friends in University Circle to head for the hills. I’m pretty sure I cleared every cat from the area in a 2-mile radius. I did however have a fabulously good time.

I introduced myself to Gerald a bit early as neither of us seemed to have anything to do 45 minutes before my lesson. Gerald looked cool – had a laid back air about him. Didn’t fit the stereotypical “violin teacher” persona. He didn’t say much – which made me think he was quietly sizing me up.

Later, as my lesson commenced, I unpacked the instrument, which I have had since junior high school. Gerald tuned it for me then asked me to play it. That’s it – just start. I was mortified; I hadn’t played the thing in at least 15 years. He was supposed to teach me. But he kindly picked out an easy piece and we were off. My ear could still pick out every bad note (which were most of them at first), my bow arm felt like a tension rod scratching the hairs across the strings and my left hand fingers suddenly atrophied and felt like unbending talons searching for notes.

But eventually, muscle memory returned and it started to sound like I was playing the right notes. It felt good.

I think it was around mid-point of the lesson when Gerald simply said “just make music – pull the bow across the strings and put feeling into it.” He demonstrated that even the playing of open strings, with the right attitude, could sound like glorious heartfelt music. He expanded to tell me that playing the violin shouldn’t be about just playing the notes, it’s about making music.

That simple turn of phrase, “just make music”, has stuck with me since. I seem to find examples proving the difference between just playing the notes and making music in everyday events. The first was last Sunday at Hannah’s dance recital. In comparing the dancers (which I know all mother’s do) it was perfectly clear which dancers were just going through the motions and which were experiencing the art form. The most flexible, nubile young girl executed each movement with precision, however I couldn’t feel her dance. The best dancer among the group was the one willing to let go, take risks and feel each movement. She was beautiful and she soared.

I saw how the kind of music we make during our days could affect our lives. I could see the Sousa march in the man in grocery aisle, I could feel the Jaws theme in the kind of creepy guy at Panera, I noticed when people were going through the motions of their day without a tune.

“Just make music” is the perfect metaphor for a life well lived. I often just float through my days with nary a thought to the events of the day or my actions therein. But now I think I’ll try to make music with my life. I hope to make each moment sing and set the tone of my life to a happy tune.

Gerald’s words were simple genius. I’m off to practice making music and I can’t wait for this week’s lesson.

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3 thoughts on “Simple Genius

  1. Wow. Gerald sounds like he is going to be an excellent instructor. I really like his simple philosophy. “Just make music” will definitely find a place in my life. Thank you for sharing, and good luck with the lessons.

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