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Level of Dedication
Intended to be a casual discussion on our personal dedication to the learning and playing of our instruments.
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Pete_Violin
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September 4, 2019 - 11:04 pm
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First, I want to emphasize that in no way is this topic meant to be an expectation, to ourselves or others, regarding the level of dedication we personally have.  

---------

Now that that's said, I am interested in how we view our dedication to playing these instruments.  

String instruments take time, dedication, perseverance, and plain work to reach whatever level of playing we want to achieve.  It is one of the more difficult instruments to play (some would say to play well).

I will attempt to describe what goes into my playing and dedication.  I am, by no means, a professional musician.  In fact, my goal really is not to play violin for a living.  However, I have specific goals I want to reach:

  1. To play in an orchestra and perform proficiently enough that I am contributing in a valuable way to the orchestra.
  2. To perform, or to be ready to perform, for whatever audience or venue that invites me to play.  Not necessarily as a professional, but in my community or in my church, or whatever audience invites me.
  3. To play at a level where I feel my playing feels good, sounds good and could provide an emotional response.  To play at a level where I am confident that listeners will enjoy hearing me play.

These are not frivolous, thoughtless goals.  They are resolute and I am dedicated to achieving them.

I understand that playing is just as valuable to play for the sake of enjoyment.  That the happiness that playing these instruments brings is incredibly important.  But in addition, are there other things you want to achieve?  

I am interested to know if there are definite goals or achievements you would like to accomplish.  Having peace of mind is a valid and important achievement as well, and it is also part of why I play.

Thank you for sharing.

- Pete -

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AndrewH
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September 5, 2019 - 3:46 am
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Those sound like excellent goals! Open-ended in some ways, but they show why you want to play the instrument. Many people have specific end-goal pieces, and that kind of goal can be greatly motivational, but there are also down sides to something that specific.

My goals started out similar to yours, given that I was a late starter myself. Over time I revised them to make them both more specific and more ambitious as I came to realize my ceiling was probably much higher than I had believed. Today, after playing for 19 years, it looks something like this:

Long-term, dream goal (I don't expect to reach this): be a competitive candidate in auditions for a professional orchestra. I'd be extremely happy if I could make the second round of an audition, which would already signify being a professional-level player.

Other goals:

1. To play with a full range of expressive tools and have solid enough command of technique to devote most of my attention to expression and interpretation (including when sight-reading).

2. To be proficient and consistent enough to lead an orchestral viola section in high quality performances of standard repertoire, and to be able to perform most standard orchestral or chamber music repertoire competently on short (less than one week) notice.

3. To perform all the pieces on my "musical bucket list" -- this item is now more about finding performing opportunities than about ability.

4. To learn all three of the "big three" 20th century viola concertos.

5. To reach the level of familiarity with the viola where playing it feels natural most of the time.

6. To play at a level where my playing sounds good to me and where I am confident that listeners will enjoy it.

Yes, my last goal is similar to your third goal. I have never reached it. I have often felt over the last 10-15 years that I am almost there, but not quite. Confidence is a strange thing.

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cid
September 5, 2019 - 7:48 am
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I like this topic. It is interesting. I don’t have aspirations as high as the two previous posters, @Pete_Violin and @AndrewH .

I am basically doing this at this late stage in my life because I have always loved the violin, viola and cello. I now have the ability and me time to do this.

My goals are just for me to be able to play them where I feel like, “Hey, I can do this”. I have no performance aspirations. Have never been able to do any speaking in front of people or be the object of attention. I did not even want a wedding, I wanted to just elope.

I do not have any goal to, and will not ever, play in any lesson recitals. Not going to happen. I did it one time when my kids and I took piano lessons. I could not ask them to do it and not do it myself. But, I also did not want them to be like me and panic when it comes to anything like that, so I forced myself to do it. I did not want to transfer my fear of, and dislike of, performing in front of anyone or any size crowd to my kids. I wanted them to try it themselves.

I did fine on the outside, but, I was a serious mess. I do not find it fun and do not have a need for performing. Would I do it again so my kids would have that experience? Sure, but that would be for them, not me. My son ended out playing bass guitar in a locally popular band and had no issues getting up on stage. He now has a job where he does have to speak occasionally and he is very good at it. All three have no problems getting up in front of people, whether work related or as the duty of a Maid of Honor or Best Man, etc. They are, all three very good at it, and do do it in their every day activities and jobs. I would like to think that piano recital helped with that.

Not too long ago (maybe a month ago) I told my oldest about my complete fear and dislike, and lack of enjoyment, of doing anything in front of people. She was confused and mentioned that piano recital I did with the three of them. I told her what I just said about why I did it. She was very surprised.

So my dedication is for my own satisfaction and something I really want to do. For me, that is sufficient. I would, however, like to get to a point where if someone walks in on me, they are not going to cringe. I would like to get to the point where I don’t have to say, or feel like I should say, “I am still learning”. 😁

I am not a classical music lover. I like 60’s. That said, there are some 60’s I dislike, and some classical pieces I do like. I am not interested in being graded, learning specific suites, etc. I can understand how those who have more ambitious goals would be more interested in the classical and the suites, that are a measure of your ability. I think they are used in some sort of judging, ABRMS? I am not interested in any of that.

That lack of interest may be my age, but many of you have mentioned those, and are late starters like am, so maybe not. It may be due to your aspirations being more of a public performing goal than I have. I really wish I could have that aspiration, and I am very impressed by those of you who are. 👏👏👏

I know that not having learned any of this music theory in my earlier years that seems to be needed does hinder me. The thing is, I am in no hurry. My goal is to just learn as much as I can, become as good and comfortable with the instruments as I can, and enjoy myself as much as I can in the process.

But my aspirations are for my enjoyment, my feeling good about myself being able to play these instruments and my own realities of how far I can advance with them. I also can get lost in my instruments when playing and nothing else exists, I love that. All problems, no matter how small or big, are suspended for that time.

There is one more goad that has been added since I became a grandmother. I want to teach my granddaughters that it does not matter that you are a female. Being in a family of 6 boys and 3 girls growing up during the decades I was growing up, I learned the boys’ goals and aspirations were more important - do not follow that thinking now! I want them to see that it does not matter how old you are when you start out on an adventure. I want them to see that it does not matter how “good” you are at something, just enjoy it. I want them to see that there is nothing wrong with doing something for your own enjoyment or well-being.

I only see them, in person about 4 days out of the year. We do Facetime. We also share videos. Well, their parents share the videos with them. I do post videos of me playing my instruments for them on our shared album. The youngest is too young to know what it is (1 1/4 yrs old). The older girl (3 1/2) knows it is me and listens intently. The first video I sent was when she was about 2. I recorded, “You Are My Sunshine” on my cello. Her father recorded her watching the video with her mother. My little granddaughter was mesmerized and singing along. I do songs they know. If I can’t find the sheet music to download, I do it by ear. I do “Happy Birthday” every year, and switch out the instrument. Next year the older one will get it on viola.

So, that is my purpose for learning these instruments, and what drives me. Not as grand as most, but, for me, it makes me feel good about the money spent, time and effort. I have never felt, “Ugh! I have to practice.” I consider it all as time I am playing the instrument.

Not sure if that was what you were asking, but that is the level of my dedication.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Gordon Shumway
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September 5, 2019 - 8:12 am
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Eddy20 talked of goals, but they were basically long-term or vague, generic ones.

It's OK to have many goals, some long-term, some short-term. It's even OK to have conflicting goals, I think, mainly because it's ok not to fret if you miss a goal, and it's good to have the flexibility to amend goals.

Right now I have the following goals: -

a) join the Dulwich Symphony Orchestra 2nd violins in September next year.

b) get my technique level with my musicality by end of January next year.

c) relive my teen years when I was post grade 8 on the piano and it was a relaxed and happy time.

d) find a wife, lol!

e) play Western Swing in my uke group

Andrew

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HP
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September 5, 2019 - 9:15 am
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Thank you for making this post. It's interesting to see where people come from and where they want to go on their journey.

My goals are kind of weird ones. I picked up the violin again as an extension of treatment. I've mentioned it before, I have severe agoraphobia (fear of leaving the home and/or be in public space.). I didn't leave my home for several years unless it was absolutely necessary. I started treatment about 2 years ago and I've made progress along the way, although it's very slow progress. New places and experiences still provoke a huge amount of fear.

So my goal is to never let my fear prevent me from progressing as a violinist. I won't skip a violin lesson due to fear, I won't say no to a recital and performance. I won't back away from social settings created by music. To expose myself to as much exposure as humanly possible, because I'm so sick and tired of being a prisoner of my own mind.  It's probably an abstract goal, but it's something to go by.

Other goals: To play with confidence, both off and on stage. To be able to express the things that I want to express through music and not be hindered due to my lack of skill.

To become a somewhat professional player. I don't really have a desire to become a superstar (well, as superstar as a violinist can be.), but it would be nice to be able to live comfortably off my income as a musician. 

To get to the point where playing feels like second nature. I do have moments where violin playing feels very natural, but it's not quite second nature yet.

To play all the music I truly want to play and not feel held back because of my skills. 

Become a good improviser.

To have a lot of fun in the progress and find good company, friends and hopefully a husband. After all, I'm getting closer to 30 than I would like to be.

'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.

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GregW
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September 5, 2019 - 10:10 am
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Short term I'd want to get back into the local jams/session.  I'm several months into skipping them due to just not being able to keep up.  So Ive been trying to work on speed which is still elusive.  A VERY long term goal would be to reach a level of skill and stamina to play a Contra dance with other musicians.  That seems like something that would be cool and definitely something that seems unreachable for me at this point.  Other than that seeing one of the grandkids or even my kids pick up an instrument and be able to play with them.  

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starise
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September 5, 2019 - 1:42 pm
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Yep, Great topic here. It never hurts to ask ourselves why we do what we do and what we hope to achieve through it. I think there have been some good motives given.

On the top of my list for reasons is probably simply that I'm wired to want to pick up instruments and try to play them. I would probably do it no matter what, although with no concrete goals for it I doubt it would go as far. That's ok for some.

When I look back on why I chose violin as an instrument to learn, I think I must have been crazy. I was already playing several instruments to a decent level so WHY would I pick violin? I didn't have a background that directed me to classical music specifically. At the time I wasn't aware that the violin fit very well in any place except classical music. I mean, I seen them play it on the Grand Ole Opry on TV, but wasn't impressed since I didn't snuggle up to country music with open arms. Nothing that was violin looked like anything I would have an interest in.

Then later in life I realized I liked many of the things people were doing with violins. I guess my tastes have changed over time. That was the beginning for me and I haven't let up since. 

It seems most violinists are aspiring to classical music. I am beginning to really appreciate a lot of it. Some of my prior exposure to "classical musicians" left a bad taste in my mouth that has sort of carried over into that music for me. I often probably make the wrong associations with those musicians and the music they associate themselves with. I'm sure it's mostly a sense of dread I've developed that I know is really unfounded, but I can't seem to shake it entirely so far. For this reason I haven't gone running after classical music or the groups that play it. I DO want to learn the techniques to play it though because I think it helps me to be a better player no matter what I play. I'm certain that given a different set of circumstances I would likely be viewing this much differently. The cards just haven't fallen very well in that direction for me. Successive events have only seemed to reinforce old views.

One of my goals was to be able to show up at an Irish session, contribute well, feel included and make others feel better with this music. So far I have achieved that goal. I'm not as good as many players in this genre however I am getting to the point where I can hold my own pretty well. I have received applause from the audience recently. At least in these groups I am fairly capable and I am accepted.

Every time I pick up an instrument I envision it as a way to learn the art of composition better. If we know the instrument , we can better compose for it. In this, the violin was no exception. I have gleaned a lot of knowledge I would not have otherwise have gained in my music composition hobby.

I envisioned one day using the violin in church to play music people could enjoy and associate with the purposes they are there. I've been involved in church music for a long time playing mostly piano. I want to integrate the violin into this in a good way.

I wanted to meet other great musicians, and the violin has helped me to do that!

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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September 5, 2019 - 5:00 pm
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I think it's interesting how life experiences mold the kind of music we want to play. I feel I'm a bit of an outsider in the classical music world too, but more comfortable there than in other genres.

That's probably because I didn't grow up with it from early childhood like so many other classical musicians did, but gravitated toward it in middle school and high school to avoid culture shock. My parents both worked in the oil industry, so my family moved to Dubai when I was 3 years old. Neither of my parents listened to music at all for some reason, and most of the music I heard in the streets was Bollywood. American pop culture eventually got to Dubai too, but in the days before everyone being on the internet, even the American community in Dubai tended to lag several years behind the US in pop culture. We moved back to the US when I was going into 7th grade, and I had heard of almost none of the bands that other kids were listening to. Middle school kids being as cliquish and sometimes vicious as they are, I found that it was socially much easier to go backward in time and listen to mostly classical and jazz than to try and keep up with the trends. (Maybe my experience with pop music is not that different in some ways from what @starise encountered with classical.)

Ironically, the thing that directed me to classical music (growing up in the Middle East) is the same reason I started late -- there wasn't much Western music in Dubai, so I didn't see a violin, viola, or cello until after returning to the States. One thing that has continued to motivate me is being repeatedly rejected by violin teachers because of age when I was between 12 and 16, one of them even saying it was too late for me to ever play a string instrument beyond beginner level.

Not to say that's the only motivating thing now. The best thing about playing the violin and viola has been the people I've met along the way once I finally got started. Even those ambitious personal goals are more because I want opportunities to play alongside top-notch musicians than they are about personal accomplishment.

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Pete_Violin
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September 5, 2019 - 11:02 pm
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So great to have so many responses!  I am glad to see that we are all very interested in the way we look at and see ourselves with our instruments.

Personally, my violin is so important to me.  It is so many things to me.  It removes the stress and takes me away from difficulties.  It is a way to express myself.  It fills my empty spaces.  It gives me something to reach for.  It is a friend.

AndrewH said
Those sound like excellent goals! Open-ended in some ways, but they show why you want to play the instrument. 

Long-term, dream goal (I don't expect to reach this): be a competitive candidate in auditions for a professional orchestra. I'd be extremely happy if I could make the second round of an audition, which would already signify being a professional-level player.

Your goals are amazing!  You describe them a lot better than I did mine.  But 19 years of playing will tend to solidify those goals, I am sure.

I am not sure on this, but my feeling is confidence may come, at least partially, through the listener.  For me, if the feedback is positive it will go a long way to my own confidence.  But I understand that is not the whole story, and that reaching that level of confidence we would like can be like chasing a rainbow.  

cid said

I am basically doing this at this late stage in my life because I have always loved the violin, viola and cello. I now have the ability and me time to do this.

My goals are just for me to be able to play them where I feel like, “Hey, I can do this”. I have no performance aspirations. Have never been able to do any speaking in front of people or be the object of attention. I did not even want a wedding, I wanted to just elope.

I understand the difficulties of performing, believe me.  What astonishes me about your dedication is the range of your playing... literally, from bass to treble clef! I'll be honest, bass is quite unfamiliar to me and alto scares me!  Your ability to go from one to the other is amazing, and you will be a better string player with that experience!

Gordon Shumway said
Eddy20 talked of goals, but they were basically long-term or vague, generic ones.

It's OK to have many goals, some long-term, some short-term. It's even OK to have conflicting goals, I think, mainly because it's ok not to fret if you miss a goal, and it's good to have the flexibility to amend goals.

I need to be less critical of myself... but there is this balancing act in my mind... never give up, but don't beat myself up either.  It is a fine line to draw and I lean toward the side of determination.  I have a difficult time accepting when I fall short.

HP said
My goals are kind of weird ones. I picked up the violin again as an extension of treatment. I've mentioned it before, I have severe agoraphobia (fear of leaving the home and/or be in public space.). I didn't leave my home for several years unless it was absolutely necessary. I started treatment about 2 years ago and I've made progress along the way, although it's very slow progress. New places and experiences still provoke a huge amount of fear.

I don't think this is weird at all.  It is a well-known fact that playing music is therapeutic on many levels.  For me, I went through a divorce and music became my coping mechanism.  I know several people that turned to drugs or alcohol to try to get through the loss I felt, but music saved me!!  Perhaps this is why I am so dedicated to it.

GregW said
A VERY long term goal would be to reach a level of skill and stamina to play a Contra dance with other musicians.  That seems like something that would be cool and definitely something that seems unreachable for me at this point.  

There is this concept of "mindset", which is a way we set ourselves up to fulfill what we tell ourselves is our reality.  Be careful of phrases like, "I can't" or "unreachable for me".  It is human nature.  We tend to believe what we tell ourselves.  This is dangerous... especially for us, as string players.  These are challenging instruments and we must believe in ourselves in order to play them.  Your vision of what your goal looks like may end up different than you currently see, but it is not impossible. 

A year and 9 months ago, I picked up a bow for the first time in my life.  I am now playing Bach pieces and will be starting in orchestra this month.  Many people did not believe I could do it.  Or better yet, dismissed the idea altogether.  But I needed to believe it!  We can never say we can't.  We are string players, Greg!  If anything, we certainly can!

Thank you all for sharing!  I am more dedicated now, reading about all of your aspirations and goals! 

- Pete -

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Fiddlerman
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September 8, 2019 - 12:05 pm
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Goals are GREAT, expectations are not as great. 😁

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

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