The Fine Points of our Profession

My father used to tell me that a good book is read every 10 – 15 years. The reason he gave was that with time we read the book with ‘new eyes’. Our life experiences make us read further into the book, see elements we may have overlooked before.

After many years I am currently reading a book by Leopold Auer, the foremost violin pedagogue at the turn of the 19th-20th century. He raised a whole new generation of violinists, Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman who defined violin playing and are up to today looked up to by most violinists.

In his book,’Violin Playing As i Teach It’, Auer in his own words, ‘gives the serious teacher and violin student the practical benefit of t he knowlwdge acquired during a long life devoted to playing and teaching the violin’. As a student this book was my Bible. I analysed, reread the chapters on how to develop violin technique, learn new music etc.
But now, I discovered a chapter in the book that at the time seemed superfluous. Auer writes about ‘the feeling of the professional man for the detail of his profession. Not only is it necessary to know the technical aspects, details but grasp the fine points of his/her art and comprehend all the shades.’

Looking around me, I realized that those of us who do possess this feeling make the difference, take the step from ordinary to extraordinary.

Do you think this can make the difference in your professional life? Do you grasp the fine points of your profession?


The Music Minute

“How to choose an instrument”

I am often asked how I decided to play the violin. After all, the violin is considered the most difficult instrument. When I was 5 years old my parents played a record (an age before the CD!) of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. I fell in love with the leading theme and insisted that if I started playing an instrument it would be the one that plays that theme. As my older sister was playing the piano it was expected of me to play it too. After all a piano is quite expensive so one should fully use the investment! I persevered and in time became a violinist. Interestingly my debut as soloist was with the Mendelssohn concerto.

What instrument would you or your child play? Do you have a problem deciding?

Each instrument is different. Some are easier to start with, like the piano or recorder, some more difficult, like the string instruments. However, after the initial start the time and effort you will spend are the same.

What do I recommend? Choosing the instrument is a personal decision. Every one of us will make a different choice. Your child will too. Listen to the sound, the colour. (as I did) The shape too can inspire you, as many instruments are works of art. From my experience as a teacher, the instrument we choose is a reflection of ourselves. Very often the choice is instinctive, or sometimes it’s a matter of physique- a person’s hands and fingers may be suited for playing the violin, say, more than the flute.

At your first lesson you might feel a bit strange, as your hands will be required to do movements they have never done before. Do not be discouraged. You can compare e.g. the piano with writing on the PC, or the violin bow with an iron. After a couple of lessons you will get used to it.

Tomorrow you daughter or son might come to you and say: “Mum, I would like to play the oboe”.

Encourage your child. He or she has made a personal choice, one to be respected.