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If you were fourteen again


Lydia Leong
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crystal wrote in the "incompetent teacher, please help!" thread: Wish I were 14 again and knew what I know now.

This leads me to wonder...

For those of you on this forum past the age of 14... if you could be 14 again, knowing what you do now about your life and how it turned out, would you choose a different role for music in your life, and how would it alter the direction your life would have taken?

There are a lot of adult beginners and adult returnees on this forum, and there seems to be a lot of wistfulness for lost musical opportunities at a younger age... but a lot of necessary sacrifices, too (you gave up music to play team sports, to get the football scholarship that paid your way through college, and so forth).

(I've deliberately restricted the scope of this question to musical pursuits alone.)

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Great Question. I began viola when I was nine. The following school year, I was transferred from the school I had attended, which had a very sophisticated string program still in existence, to a new school system which had no string program, and never has, 'till this day. The result was that from then on, my string studies were off and on, and I was much more active in band and choir. Luckily I had many opportunities later, but still I would have advanced much more quickly, and certainly be playing better than I do today, had I been in a school system that supported strings.

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If I were suddenly turned fourteen knowing what I now know:

First and foremost, I would start violin studies and pitch piano at that point altogether--by 14 I had accomplished a pretty solid intermediate level in piano. (Actually, Lydia, I wish I could put your question back to about when I was 7, 'cause that's when I could have started violin well, but I'll stay in the spirit of the question.)

Second, I would have asked Bill Wiltshire to teach me country fiddling in addition to the classfical training I would have begun;

Third, I would have made sure my mom found me the best possible teacher from Richmond Symphony;

Fourth, I would have applied to universities with large music programs--the college I went to was small because I wanted to be close to home, among friends, etc. That was a real mistake--I needed to venture out a bit, but in my teens, I needed a lot of reassurance.

Fifth, I would have put a lot of focus on technical work, studies, scales. Back then with piano at least, I hardly ever did the technical work. I see today with my current experience that technical work is fundamental. So, that would have been a BIG change had I begun violin at 14. (How precocious are those wunderkind who jump through the hoops of technical work at the tender young ages of 5, 6, and 7!)

Sixth, I would find groups to play with as soon as I had the basic skills under my fingers--chuches, country fiddle group, youth symphony, chamber groups. I would have dropped my interest in theatre altogether to make time for violin.

Now: instead I began violin at close to 50 instead of 14--this really makes me sad because the level I eventually achieve will be far lower than it would have been. But even with only a year and a half under my belt (or fingers), I already can play any soprano melody in tune--can even make a few embellishments upon it--and that in itself is fine. I love the violin and the sound it makes--so even if my level is only being able to take any song I hear, and either by ear or notation, play it sweetly...well, that's pretty good because the Sound of the Violin's Song is a sound in my daily life--and my daily life is That Much Sweeter because of that Song. (Excuse that run-on!)

We must find satisfaction in where we are, pin up our skirts, and get the work at hand done.

Neat question, Lyida. It'll be fun to read what others write here.

Respectfully,

Theresa

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Boy, this is a hard one...

"If I knew then what I know now..."

I would have practiced more than a 1/2 hr a day.

I would have ignored all the youthful 'crap' that is now touted as 'fun'...(well...most of it).

I would have joined a string quartet as soon as possible.

Has anyone read 'Running from Security', by Richard Bach ? In it, he returns to his youthful self to offer advice, and finds his young self waiting for him, desperate for the advice. In my 'Musicians and Money' thread, I offer advice to those younger than me..advice that I wish I had gotten when I was 14.

Sigh. But I wouldn't want to be 14 again unless I could take my current knowledge with me!

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Ah yes, to relive my youth and do all the things I should have done. My life would have been so different. I would have....

What am I talking about, I'm 16.

Errr...well, I suppose I would have practiced more. Only now am I taking the instrument seriously. I would have held out for a better violin rather than buying the $800 one that I did back then. And I would have used the knowledge I have from the future to make lots and lots of money...then give it to charity because I wouldn't really deserve it.

MarkDigi

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A little off point, but --

How unfortunate that when I posed this question to my fourteen year old daughter (who, by all objective standards, is quite musically advanced) her response was that fourteen already feels over the hill in today's the-younger-the-better obsessed market. I have heard this sentiment expressed by so many of her pre-college conservatory friends and it upsets me terribly, particularly when I think of the tremendous talent of these young musicians, and the enormous sacrifices they are making, happily, to pursue their dreams. These concerns are not unjustified, though, when you look at the ages at which many of today's concert soloists made their debuts. That is not to say that wonderful careers will not be available to those who aren't under professional management before puberty -- it justs gets harder to attract attention if one hopes to make it as a soloist.

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If I was 14 again...

Well, first of all, I would not want to be 14 again. That is a tough time in everyone's life, trying to figure out who you are and how you fit in with your friends and starting to learn about the responsibilities of life. I am at an age where I remember being 14 pretty well, and I remember that I hated being 14. But, maybe it would have been better if I knew then what I know now. So what would I have done differently?

1. When I was 14, I started violin lessons after having played in my school orchestra for 3 years. I wish I would have looked for a better teacher, one who was more supportive, focused more on technique, and didn't make me cry at every lesson.

2. I wish I would've switched to viola then. That way I could have played viola all through high school and have the benefits of more experience with viola now.

3. I hardly ever practiced at that age. Maybe 2 hours a week. I wish I would've taken music more seriously.

There are lots of other things, too, but they aren't really music related. Looking back, I guess being 14 wasn't as horrible as I thought it was at the time. But I still wouldn't want to be 14 again.

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Yes, it would be great to be 14 and know what I know now. But that isn't possible is it? Not only for obvious reasons, but because we only know what we know now because we've lived it and have those experiences.

You can't be 14 and have the experiences of a 36 year old. When I was younger, none of my schools had a strings program. I did join the band in 5th grade and played clarinet until I graduated. Also sang in various chorus and acted/sang in theater groups. I have always had a love for music. It's unfortunate that I am only now discovering violin in some ways, but to wish what I have away? Never. I have been married 13 years and have 2 terrific kids. Have suffered through illnesses, deaths, and many life changes. That's who makes me who I am and when I learn to play well, all of that will go into it. I know it will make me a better player.

Yes, it would have been nice to learn the technique at a younger age. But do I wish what I have away? Not for a second!

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I'm not sure I can get my head around Lydia's question! My musical life went off the rails during college rather than at 14 or so; perhaps I would have stayed in the orchestra instead of the rugby team if I had that to do over again, but who knows ... I guess it would have been nice to play more chamber music in high school, but that would have meant less orchestra or less solo work or less something else.

As for Arpa's comment, I fear that youth obsession is not new among up and coming string players. I remember having discussion at about age 14 that anyone who started violin after age 7 was hopelessly behind!!

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If I were 14 again (umm...that would be last year...) I would have practiced harder and longer, because now I would appreciate it more if I were a better player. That takes practice, though.

Hopefully, I've only lived 1/5th of my life and in the other 4/5ths I'll be doing whatever I enjoy.

- 454

[This message has been edited by 454 (edited 08-15-2000).]

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I try not to think about things like this because they really don't do anyone any good, they only make you regret that you didn't do this and that.

I regret that I put my money in Microsoft instead of Sun Microsystems last summer, but oh well.

I think of what I can do TODAY. Yesterday is GONE.

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Last year, when I was fourteen... smile.gif I should have found more etudes, practiced more scales, concentrated more on the more technical things, and payed more attention to the metronome. I also should have not let myself get so frustrated because I didn't have the teacher I wanted. I was actually pretty good about practicing.

P.S. I completely agree that fourteen is kind of late, I would move it back to "If I were ten again..."

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(Ah, 14, a bittersweet year I'd rather not revisit.)

A more general response would be that when I was a teenager, I truly believed that simple determination to live an artist's life would triumph over all the potential distractions. I didn't have any inspiring music teachers although I was solid on flute and piano, but no passion there. Never even considered strings - no school program to encourage or suggest such a possibility. If I could go back and warn myself of how I'd get lured off the "path", would I? Since I can't there's no point in answering. Like Crystal, if it's an either/or, reality vs. potentiality, well who can say they'd give up the gifts of what they've chosen - the partners, children, experiences. Others have said that as adult beginners and/or returners, they bring so much more to the music now... that too is a priceless gift.

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To Jascha: I disagree with your point of view. I think exercises like this can actually be beneficial because they force us to home in on our values and priorities.

Sure: I can't be 14 again--or 24--or 34--or 44! But by looking back and thinking how I would have changed certain things, I'm better able to look FORWARD and know how to cut through the baloney and work with more direction. Does that make sense?

It's good to read these responses because by and large we all seem to want to give more direction to our lives.

If not the direction of the past, then certainly the direction of the future.

And that's why I think these kinds of questions are beneficial--we come face to face with our current values and maybe jump-start things that are important to us, but which we perhaps are a bit too lax.

Best regards,

Theresa

PS: Note, Jascha: Right now I am on the computer, NOT practicing, and John Carpenter's "Vampires" is playing in the background. But having written you this little note, you better believe after supper I'll get in a good two hours! smile.gif

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It's actually only 4 years ago since I was 14... I feel -like many of us- that I should have practised more to be a better violin player now. But, as a 14-year-old, I couldn't force myself to study so much. I didn't have the self-discipline. Maybe that's what I've learned in the last four years...

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I don't think I would do anything differently because my circumstances still would be the same. There were no opportunities in music at all. No strings programs or teachers. Even to this day there are none. The only person in town who could play anything was the church organist and I don't think I'd aspire to that. Ambition is one thing but there also has to be opportunity. The only way I could have aspired to music would be to live in another part of the country.

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If I was 14 again?

If I was really my age now (as young) that would also not be the end of the world.

Yes! I'm already a nice little bit over 14.

I don't really want to be my actual age-yet!

If I would do everything I could even now, I beleive I could overcome the actual problems I have with my birth certificate.

But at the momment I have other things draining me, which make things difficult for me even now, that I ubderstand much more than when I was actually 14.

But I'm aiming to be a mature version of a 14 or so year old.

S.T.

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Oh Lydia, what an absolutely depressing question! smile.gif

When I was around 12-13 my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him I wanted to be a musician like him (he's a classical guitarist) but he told me I was too old to pursue a career in music; and that I should have mastered whatever instrument I wanted to make a career out of by then.

And I believed him. I mean, I had to, he was my father. And I wish I hadn't. I wish I could have convinced MYSELF that I could do it if I really tried; or even that I should have at least just given it a shot.

So I went on to teach myself the piano and I became my church pianist for over 10 years. I became extremely active in many musical groups and projects, both in church and outside where I sang in several semi-professional choruses and groups. When the opportunity arose again (at 29) to begin music lessons, I decided to take up the violin instead of the piano since I thought learning good habits (on the violin) would be easier than un-learning bad ones (on the piano).

So here I am learning the violin and loving every minute of it. I don't regret the lost years but I do regret not having been brave enough to follow my instincts back at 14! smile.gif

August

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Brooklyn Fiddler: That's such a poignant observation about the fiddlers no longer among us! Have you considered Mark O'Connor's fiddle camp? It was reviewed on the Sunday Morning show--and it looks like a great place (among many, probably) where you can get together with some old timers.

For the record: after having said I would practice two hours last night, I did! It was great! And all because Lydia's post made me think about how I've been lazily spending my time THIS summer!

Thanks, Lydia!

Best regards,

Theresa

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Thanks Theresa. I am aware of the fiddle camps. One of the problems of not being 14, is that its tough to get the time to attend after balancing the demands of work and family.

I hope to convince my wife (who hates old timey music)to attend one of Jay Unger's fiddle camps, Brad Leftwich is an instructor on a regular basis. I have learned a lot from Brad's videos and the plethora of old recordings available.

When I use the term "old-timer" I refer to those who learned to play aurally from family and friends in the cultural context which produced the music. Studying video tapes of Tommy Jarrell and friends is very revealing. The world and our country have moved on; I am sorry that I was not one of the many dedicated musicians who helped helped document and preserve the tradition directly. Its somewhat ironic that much of the cultural context of the music which no longer exits in the physical world, is alive and well in the hearts of muscians and expressed through the music and the virtual world of technology.

Isn't it great for people with like "off-beat" interests and proclivities to have a virtual community such as this BB to share thoughts with?

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