Monday, December 1, 2014

The Absolute Beginner

Last spring, I decided to take a violin class called "The ABCs of Violin for the Absolute Beginner" because why the heck not?  I have a violin.  And I would consider myself an absolute beginner, as I have absolutely no idea how to play the darn thing. The adult education center down the street offered a relatively affordable class, so I signed up.  Unfortunately the day I thought 'I should take violin lessons' was the day after the first class.  I emailed the instructor to see if it was ok that I missed the first class.  She said "of course it is fine, give me your money and show up!" 

Turns out the first class of any lesson is absolutely critical.  I show up to the second lesson.  I remind the teacher that I missed the first class and I take a seat in the very back.  The instructor starts off the class asking everyone to show her how they hold the bow and violin (i.e. what they learned in the first class).  I cheat off the person next me.  Then the teacher says "Ok, let's turn to page 5...and a 1 and a 2 and ready and a go!"  Everyone starts playing an awful version of Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Try as I might, it is impossible to cheat.  Are you kidding me?!   I move my bow (without actually touching the bow to the strings) in a motion that would make an unintelligent child believe I was playing the violin.   I cannot even guess at a note.  Realizing I am not fooling anyone, I stop and sit still like a dumb-dumb. I wait for the embarrassment to end as my face pools up with blood and my lunch starts climbing towards my throat.  I should have made it to the first class...

This is what adult beginner violin class sounds like:

My first homework assignment for violin class was to buy a shoulder rest and come back properly equipped.  The instructor recommended a music shop in Boston... someone she knows personally.  My teacher is a professional violin player, and this music shop she suggested is a store for super professional symphony players.  I show up in my hobo clothes and K-mart coat with my mediocre pawn shop violin which the smug little man tactfully insinuates is a piece of garbage.

The pompous violin guy proceeds to give me a tour of his grandiose violin factory and repair shop, showing off his $5,000 bows and symphonic accomplishments.  He casually reminisces about this one time when he was talking to some mathematical genius guy who makes violin strings and asked him about his business and then explained how this MIT wizard went on and on about how he figured out exactly how the angle of the string should be when it is pressed down and how that is related to the tension in the string which is determined based on the ...angle... frequency...waves...emittance...  sin. or..... cos sin of the angle between the bridge and the string when you press the string down ....

At the end of his story, the chubby store owner exclaims, "Isn't that soooooo SEXyyyyy?!"

 No.  No, it is not.  You're an idiot.  And you need to find yourself some normal friends that will call you out on this non-stop, persistent pompous ranting.  Of course I do not say that.  I give him an awkward, uncertain, "yeaaa, that's great," buy my shoulder rest, and get out of there.

In the meantime on the walk home, I can't help but wonder where is the violin shop for the absolute beginners?  For violin-ers who just want to know how to play a little bit and not be a total presumptuous jerk about it, where do we go?  We should not have to be subjected to such abject snobbery.

After my second lesson, my violin teacher told me I was the most improved from last week.  As the saying goes.... when you are an absolute beginner, you are at rock bottom, and the only place to go, is closer to the mediocre beginners.


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