Hi everyone! A music update is long overdue, so here we go. My left hand sensation is permanently lost. At first I didn’t want to believe this, but time and several different neurologists confirmed the pronouncement. It would have been easy to give up on my violin journey at this point. After all, the violin is primarily a left handed instrument, and a highly toned sense of touch produces almost all of what great violinists are known for (fast fingers, excellent intonation, and rich vibrato).
After doing some research I believe I’m the only person who’s ever tried to play the instrument without feeling their left hand (FYI, I’m happy to be corrected if this is mistaken! 🙂 ) BUT I’ve had too many outstanding teachers and mentors to believe it’s impossible. You see, great music is born out of a specific combination: passion and problem solving. Passion gives the insatiable desire to project deep emotion to an audience, the bravery to overcome anxiety – and the commitment to devote hours, days, years, and lifetimes to be expert enough to succeed. However, just passion is not enough. Expertise requires a whole lot of problem solving, too. Problem solving corrects poor intonation, wrong hand positions, mistaken interpretation of pieces, and unbalanced sound levels in a concert hall. While there will never be a perfect musician, a truly excellent one has a rare combination of extreme passion and intelligent problem solving.
So, back to me and the violin. To give y’all some background, I want to share a classroom performance during my time at the Eastman School of Music. This is truly an amazing music school, and I studied under a man who shaped aspects of my life far beyond just music. Although no performance is perfect, I really enjoyed combining passion and problem solving in this one:
After the accident, passion drove me to repair my violin (it got hit by that car too!) even though I couldn’t hold it correctly and wasn’t sure if I ever would. Side promo for Benning Violins in Los Angeles! They service the LA Philharmonic and are absolutely fantastic.
After my violin was fixed, passion drove me to keep trying until I could hold the instrument correctly, then get my fingers on those strings, then get them to the right intervals for some notes. All without feeling anything. (Also, just a reminder, the violin has no frets). You would think I could use some serious eye work to accomplish this, but here’s where the hard core problem solving comes in. Not only does the bow partially block my line of vision, but I also have some visuospatial deficits from the accident. Ivan compares all this to trying to throw darts blindfolded. The past year was a cycle of experimenting, experimenting, and experimenting again. Most of this ended in tears. There were moments I was so depressed I swore I would never touch the instrument again. But passion drove me back very single time. Eventually I produced this:
To give some perspective, I think I originally learned this when I was 6, so it’s basically violin preschool. I was too embarrassed to perform it live, but at least I recorded it…and FINALLY am posting it…over three months later.
Passion drives me back to the violin every time, no matter how I end up feeling, and problem solving is finally showing a few results. I don’t know if problem solving will ever produce a technical foundation solid enough to project the strong emotion I once loved sharing, but at least it’s producing enough to keep my heart happy. Thank you all for your prayers!