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Late-beginning violist, 17+ years on...
New here -- experienced player but also a late starter like many here!
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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November 6, 2017 - 1:00 am
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 94
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So... I can't say I'm new to the viola, but I joined the forum because I'm on the same journey as many people here, just quite a few years on. I'm a violist in Northern California, playing in the viola section of a semi-professional orchestra and as principal violist in a community orchestra. I also compose music occasionally. Outside of music, I'm a lawyer and a disability rights activist, and enjoy playing and watching soccer, writing, cooking, and DIY projects.

I played piano from an early age, but I grew up mostly in Dubai before it became a major international destination, so I didn't get to hear a string instrument in person until I was 12. After moving back to the US, I tried a few times to start playing violin, but was told several times I was already too old to ever learn to play even passably. Eventually, I started teaching myself violin in 1999, at age 16, on a violin that once belonged to a great-uncle, then switched to viola about a year and a half later after going to a concert and hearing the Walton viola concerto. After college, when I no longer had regular access to a piano, I stuck with the viola as my main instrument, played in community orchestras, and kept working at it while relying mainly on advice from other musicians in my orchestras to improve. (I also can't say I'm completely self-taught any more. I had about two months of lessons in 2016, and fixed some issues with my bowing technique. Unfortunately I had to stop because it was hard to schedule lessons around work, with a teacher who was frequently out of town.)

I'm 34 now, and I've kept on hitting new milestones: worked my way up into a semi-professional orchestra in 2011, became principal violist in my community orchestra in 2013, performed as a soloist for the first time in 2014 (Bruch, Romanze for viola and orchestra), performed all nine Beethoven symphonies by the end of 2016, and went to an intensive chamber music workshop for the first time this July. This summer I saw some adult beginner string players' channels on YouTube and decided to start a vlog myself. And in September I bought a copy of the Walton concerto, and realized it's not nearly as intimidating now as I used to think!

On Friday I saw a mention on YouTube about the FiddleFest that just happened, and that led me here. I'd like to connect with other people who started late (there aren't many in my orchestras), try to be the kind of resource I wish I had when I was learning, and ideally even find other late beginners who are now playing at a high level -- one thing I'd really love to do is record some of the "A-list" chamber music repertoire with only other string players who started late. I think I still have plenty to learn, too, and I'm well aware that I may have big holes in my training, so I'm hoping to get the occasional pointer myself.

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Tipiaowsek
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November 6, 2017 - 5:25 am
Member Since: September 7, 2017
Forum Posts: 31
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I found your story really inspiring. Being able to and having enough passion to play an instrument and reach your level when everyone said that it was too late is no easy feat. I applaud you. Playing in an orchestra one day is one of my future goals and now that you've shared your story it doesn't seem as unreachable. 

Do not practice until you get it right, practice until you can't get it wrong.

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Charles
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November 6, 2017 - 2:45 pm
Member Since: June 7, 2016
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Hi, Andrew,

Welcome to the forum. You won't find many around here who buy into that nonsense about not being able to play decently because you're older.

People who start as young children do a have few advantages - they're more limber (which because violins and violas require a very contorted position to play, is helpful); they may (I'm not sure about this) soak up new information a bit more readily, and mostly, they don't have to support themselves at the same time they're trying to learn and practice.

I would say that most 16 year olds that were as strongly interested as you would have picked up just about as much in 10 years as a 6 year old would, if someone else supported you through all that time, gave you lots of lessons, etc.

I envy you the ability to largely teach yourself. I got a teacher for violin, and my progress has gone much further and faster than it has on any other instrument I've tried. I'm simply not one of those people who can teach themselves to play well, with no help.

You'll find there are a lot more violinists than violists on here, but we don't have the silly prejudices that some violinists do.  (And if there's anybody on the forum who I'm wrong about on that subject, shaddapa you mouth. 🙂 )

We could definitely use an expert on viola around here, so we're glad to have you. You would have been quite welcome at Fiddlerfest (one of the players was a violist, in fact), and there's a thing called "Strings on Sunday" every week that anyone is welcome to join.  (BillyG or damfino can give you more details on that.)

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Mark
Honorary advisor
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November 6, 2017 - 8:10 pm
Member Since: September 30, 2014
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Andrew, welcome to the forum. 

Oh my 34, so old 😎 

A few of us here started then stopped playing for 34 years before we started playing again!

You have lots of good time to learn and enjoy the Viola

 

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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November 8, 2017 - 2:09 am
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 94
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Thanks for the welcome, everyone!

Charles said
Hi, Andrew,

Welcome to the forum. You won't find many around here who buy into that nonsense about not being able to play decently because you're older.

People who start as young children do a have few advantages - they're more limber (which because violins and violas require a very contorted position to play, is helpful); they may (I'm not sure about this) soak up new information a bit more readily, and mostly, they don't have to support themselves at the same time they're trying to learn and practice.

I would say that most 16 year olds that were as strongly interested as you would have picked up just about as much in 10 years as a 6 year old would, if someone else supported you through all that time, gave you lots of lessons, etc.

I envy you the ability to largely teach yourself. I got a teacher for violin, and my progress has gone much further and faster than it has on any other instrument I've tried. I'm simply not one of those people who can teach themselves to play well, with no help.

You'll find there are a lot more violinists than violists on here, but we don't have the silly prejudices that some violinists do.  (And if there's anybody on the forum who I'm wrong about on that subject, shaddapa you mouth. 🙂 )

We could definitely use an expert on viola around here, so we're glad to have you. You would have been quite welcome at Fiddlerfest (one of the players was a violist, in fact), and there's a thing called "Strings on Sunday" every week that anyone is welcome to join.  (BillyG or damfino can give you more details on that.)  

It's probably not quite accurate to say I was entirely self-taught even before I had my first lessons -- playing in orchestras with much better musicians helped a lot with both motivation and technique. There was always new music to learn, and always someone to give me pointers on how to play it. I think the thing that helped the most, for a lot of the time I've been playing, was always trying to play in the strongest orchestras I could keep up with. In any decent-sized city there's a range of community orchestras playing different levels of repertoire and with different levels of musicians, and if I wasn't in the back of the section, then I felt it was time to start thinking about moving up to a higher-level orchestra.

All that said: I probably could have progressed a lot faster than I did, if I'd had regular lessons. And I'm even aware of examples of people starting late and catching up. Kurt Atterberg, best known today as one of Scandinavia's leading 20th century composers, didn't start playing any instrument until he took up the cello at 15, and just six years later he was in the cello section of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic!

I've met a few other people who started late (high school or older) and play regularly in orchestras, so I know it's more common than I was previously told. They're few and far between at the professional and semi-professional levels (I know only one other than myself), but there are more in community orchestras. For a year I even had someone in the viola section of my community orchestra who started at 24. (She moved away for a job, but found another orchestra in her new city.)

Still, once in a while there are still those little reminders that the people around me have mostly been playing in orchestras since they were 10 and have a completely different experience from me that they almost take for granted. When my semi-professional orchestra played Beethoven's 5th last year, I was literally the only one in the orchestra who had never played it before -- my stand partner for the concert (who before that day didn't know I was a late starter) expressed surprise that I'd never played it in a youth orchestra!

I'm really happy to see a so many late starters here, because we're all proving those comments about being "too old" wrong!

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
November 17, 2017 - 12:35 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 12802

@AndrewH - Thanks for your very nice introduction,

Welcome to the forum.
We're very happy to have you here and look forward to your future posts.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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coolpinkone
California, the place of my heart
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November 25, 2017 - 3:18 pm
Member Since: January 11, 2012
Forum Posts: 4007
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An official welcome!!

We are glad to have you.  We have some wonderful Violist here...come out come out @Ripton @Barry  and more....

I am glad you found the group and happy playing.

Cheers.

Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Ripton
Vermont, Massachusetts or somewhere in between
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November 25, 2017 - 8:23 pm
Member Since: November 2, 2014
Forum Posts: 284
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Welcome Andrew, I'm an adult Re-starter. Began with violin and cello as a youth, now in my mid fifties keep getting side tracked on my voyage with the viola. Back in the saddle again Hope to keep it going strong. Almost need to start from page 4 on the beginner books, but at least I'm still here. Having mutual encouragement from other adult starters has always been a big big plus. 

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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November 25, 2017 - 8:53 pm
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 94
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@coolpinkone Hi! Are you in the Sacramento area by any chance? Noticed from your blog you've run the Urban Cow before.

@Ripton Good to see another violist here. Welcome back to string playing!

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coolpinkone
California, the place of my heart
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December 2, 2017 - 2:12 pm
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@AndrewH I am in Roseville. I ran the Urban Cow 5k in 2016, and the 1/2 in 2017. 🙂 I think Sac Town is a cool town.  I live out in the "burbs.."  I like running in Sac.  I have done the Run to Feed the Hungry 10k's in the past as well.  Do you run also?

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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December 2, 2017 - 5:55 pm
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@coolpinkone I don't do much of straight-up running, I mostly get my exercise playing soccer (pickup games in Land Park, and XOSO when they have a 11v11 season running). A bunch of my friends run the Urban Cow half marathon every year.

Have you seen Lady Bird? I literally just got home from seeing it, and I love all the Sacramento scenes and references in it. I'm from Texas originally, but Sacramento is the first city I've lived in that's actually felt like home to me.

Since you're in the area: If you ever want to attend a Camellia Symphony Orchestra concert, let me know -- I'd be happy to give you that concert's discount code for musicians' friends and family. We have concerts coming up in February, March, and April.

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