Monday, September 04, 2006

September Beginnings

I suppose that it was rather unfair of me to tease you the other day, but I really am in a bit of a dilemma about this. It's just something that I am trying. It's rather bold of me in a sense, even though I am not exactly bold about sharing it.

"Why not?" you might ask.

Because it is more than likely that it will be a seemingly failed attempt that I will have to give up on sooner rather than later. In almost all ways of looking at it, it's rather silly of me to begin to take violin lessons in the year before I turn sixty. For one thing, many consider it to be the world's most difficult instrument. For another, I know that I'm not musically gifted – not challenged exactly but by no means gifted. And for yet a third reason (and I probably could go on), my hands and fingers have already stiffening up with arthritis. No, the odds are not with me.

"Why would he even consider attempting this?" you may ask.

Well, I took a year of lessons, actually less than a year I suppose, about forty-five years ago. I stopped because we moved, and life shifted and maybe for other reasons too, for it certainly wasn't cool back then. In the intervening years the fiddle seems to have made a comeback. I see it being played in all sorts of contemporary, cool groups. But it was most uncool then.

But I hung onto the instrument for lo these many years because I had never totally given up on it. In the back of my mind, albeit far back, the notion was always there – that I might try it again at some point in time. However, even though I had this notion, I discarded the instrument when we moved last year. I calculated, rightly or wrongly, that after sitting idle in the attic through cold and heat for so many years, that it would no longer be very viable. There's also the fact that I sat on it once many years ago; it was repaired, but I always doubted the instrument's integrity.

Regardless, the notion to take the instrument up again has been gaining momentum in my thoughts for the past few years as it became likely that we would move to this area or close to it. You see, this is a musical area, and the fiddle is certainly a large part of both its musical heritage and present scene. It seemed as though the opportunity to try again was being presented to me: the opportunity to complete something that has been dangling as a loose thread for so long. You could call it closure, I suppose, for whether I come to enjoy a small measure of success in my endeavours or whether I bomb out in a great conflagration almost immediately, I will have the sense of having completed something that I once began and set aside prematurely.

I have already rented a violin and have picked up a beginners book, and I am squawking and screeching my way through it. Actually, it's better than I thought it would be; I'm not making too many intolerable noises, but I know that there's only so much I can do on my own. So … I've contacted a teacher, and I think (but am not yet sure) that we're set to begin lessons within the next few weeks.

In the interim, I practise on my own, and I experience many self-doubts. I hit two strings; my fingers sometimes don't find the right notes; and, my aged digits don't exactly glide easily along the strings. Yes, I hold a lot of conversations with myself about whether I should even attempt this — whether I am in my right mind in doing so—or in my more lucid moments, I concede that it seems like ridiculous undertaking.

However, should I proceed no further along this path than I have gone in these meagre first steps, I already begin to feel some of that sense of the closure that I have previously mentioned.

And really, I can hardly fail. Not really. Oh, I may not do well by any real world measurement, and I may decide not to proceed very far along the path, or my teacher may decide for me. But I believe that what they say really is true: "The only failure is in not trying." I'm certainly trying. What else can a person do but try to make the best of what they have? I haven't been given much in the way of talents or gifts, but I strive, and I have become competent at a number of things in my lifetime. While He was Competent may not exactly be a stirring epitaph, I do what I can. What else can I possibly do?

There you have the dirty little secret that I have been hesitant to share. That's my new beginning this September, the month that I consider to be the real New Year.


Ginger said...

You are an encouragement!

You go, Mister! And be sure to upload a video of your first recital. We'll give you a standing ovation. ;)

Heather Plett said...

You are my new hero! I think what you're doing is GREAT! Hey, if I can jump out of a plane at 40, why can't you take up the fiddle at nearly 60?

Madcap said...

Hey, it doesn't matter what you learn, or how "perfect" you are at it - just the learning itself stretches the mind and rejuvenates. Good for you!

Linda said...

Of course you must do it. What a wonderful thing to do in your retirement. And I think you will surprise yourself with the beautiful sounds that will come out of the instrument before too long. The best way to learn is with an instructor so lessons are definitely the way to go. And...Way to go!

Gina said...

Why in the world wouldn't you be able to learn the violin?

I actually think it would be good for those arthritic fingers to move and loosen up.

And the rule for learning an instrument is the same if you are 6 or 60, practice makes perfect! ;)

Sarah Elaine said...

Any age is a good age to learn something.

The violin is a beautiful instrument. I took lessons myself for 4 years. I was never very good at it... but better at appreciating music for having tried it.

Often, it is the trying that makes it worthwhile.

The very nice man said...

In Germany we have a saying which translates roughly into:
"Where people make music, there settle down. Bad people don't know how to make music!"
Any sound you create playing an instrument is like honey to the soul! I (badly) play the guitar and love it!
Go, my friend, go! If you can find someone to practise/play along with you, it'll more than double the fun!

PBS said...

That's wonderful! If you would enjoy it, do it!

Rosemary said...

Thank you for commenting on my blog, Yesterday's Memories. I dropped by to take a look at your blog, and I'm completely charmed by it. Good for you for taking up the violin again. I've always wanted to play the guitar. One sits in the living room right now, taunting me. I've never been able to build up the calluses needed to keep the practicing from being painful LOL. Who cares if you screech or not. The fun is in the learning, anyway. As an ex teacher, you know that!

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methatiam said...

OK, here’s mine then:
I signed up for piano lessons at the local community college. My wife has just started Conversational Spanish classes.
You’re only old when you STOP reaching for something new.

Sue said...

Go for it! What a great idea. A friend of ours started to learn the flute shortly after her 60th birthday. She had always wanted to, but had never had the time. As you say, it can't be a failure, no matter how slowly (or rapidly) you progress.

I've toyed with the idea of trying to learn the piano. I too had lessons for about a year when I was about 15, and gave up in favour of other activities. I've always wished I could play. So now you've inspired me...

-epm said...

Well, good on you, AC!

I went through a similar musical indulgence a few years ago. Having never taken a music lesson in my life, I decided that 41 was the perfect age to start. For me the insturment of choice was the piano. Over the next two years, I took lessons from a fabulously patient, and talented women.

Then something happened. The lessons and the practice started to feel like... like... work! This wasn't what I signed up for. I wasn't doing this so I could give recitals or to impress family and friends with some sort of midlife virtuosity. I just wanted to have some fun and maybe understand a little about music.

I still tickle the ivories almost every day, but I stopped taken formal lessons some time ago. I won't be playing in public, but come holiday season I can at least play a carol or two... and I'm having fun, which is the whole point.

Tim Rice said...

I think that's neat that you are trying to learn the violin again. What level you reach isn't so important; it's that you are pursuing something that you have wanted to. Enjoy! And I admire you for it.

Lynn said...

I know several folks who think that are good at music and singing and such and they are, well, horrible. In other words, you can't lose. Go for it!

Valerie - Still Riding Forward said...

The trick it to have fun. If fiddling around is fun for you then do it!

I haven't touched my guitar for almost 20 years and it's keeping me sane right now, inspite of the rusty way I play.

But I am having fun...right?

Turtle Guy said...

To boldly go where you've never gone before is admirable. I've discovered myself experiencing this many times this year, as you know.

I'm behind you 100%, A.C.!

I always wanted to learn the guitar, but was talked out of it by my well-meaning parents who felt I would only become discouraged with my limited coordination and dexterity. So, I took up the piano. That was tough, so my parents in their agian, well meaning fashion got me on to none other than... you guessed it, the accordian! I did well at it too! It was much easier with narrower keys and less strength required. Sadly, other endeavours around high school age drew me away, but I've never lost my love for music. I bought a keyboard a couple years ago and have been playing around. Maybe I should take up lessons again... let's see... pottery, English, Dancing... gosh... when???

Do lots and live large!

Kathy Trejo said...

age doesn't matter. Its the learning thats enjoyable. string instruments are beautiful to listen to. its exciting to try new things! Happy New year! :)

mreddie said...

You have inspired (or shamed) me by reaching for your dream. I have a couple of want-tos that I have yet to start, maybe this is the year. ec

Rainypete said...

Good on ya AC! Nobody is ever too old to learn anything. The only thing I have found stopping em from learning how to play the piano and guitar is myself. I'm running out of excuses and am likely starting lessons this spring along with my daughter.

Anonymous said...

Way to go! That is what life is all about. To take risks. To keep on trying. To live our passions.

"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." ~Henry Ford

Granny said...

I remember my violin when I was little. I screeched at first but suddenly it fell somewhat into place and I could at least tolerate being in the same room with myself.

It never was my instrument though.

Like someone else said, go for it.

Cathy said...

Wonderful, wonderful. I don't think you mentioned how 'Cuppa' is managing with the introduction of violin music into your abode.

Bonita said...

Have you thought to post a video, via U-Tube, to let us in on a practice session? Congratulations on your new hobby.