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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

Back when I was in grammar school, fourth grade to be exact, I started taking violin lessons. Why violin? It was the only instrument being offered. (Band instruments weren't taught until fifth grade.)

Soon thereafter my parents bought me my very own violin. I remember picking it up from my violin teacher on a Saturday morning. It was a tremendous moment in my simple suburban life.

The following morning I woke up at something like 5 AM and immediately grabbed my violin and began to play, not with a bow but plucking the strings, pizzicato. The only songs I knew at the time were “Three Blind Mice” and “Hot Cross Buns.” I plucked and plucked those three notes of “Hot Cross Buns” with all the determination of a future violin maestro.

My incessant plucking woke my parents and with that came threats of losing the violin forever. I quickly slid back into bed and waited patiently for them to eventually get up. A minute seemed like hours as my fingers yearned to caress the fingerboard and pluck those strings.

Through the years I played in my junior and senior high school orchestras. I never was a prodigy, and I never practiced enough, but that experience gave me a deep respect for classical music.

Since then I’ve sporadically picked up the violin to play again. It would always amaze me how arthritic my hands felt.

Last night I was reminiscing about my violin and succumbed to temptation. I took it out to play. Tuning it was a real thrill and all the memories came flooding back... and then I picked up the bow and laid it over the strings...

Screeeeeeeeech! Egad, it sounded awful. My fingers seemed too fat for the strings and holding the bow gave my wrist cramps. I was horrified.

But instead of tossing it back into the case I hunted through the closet for my rehearsal books and propped one on the music stand. I played again, and this time it sounded better, not much, but I was encouraged. I played some more. And guess what? I enjoyed it, I really did. It was soothing, and something I want to do more often.

“Hot Cross Buns” is beginning to sound mighty fine....

I just have to remember to practice when my neighbors aren’t home.

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