Fiddles and Violins

a kate west reflection

Not many people know this, but I used to play the violin. For almost two decades. I started as a child with the Suzuki method (or "Talent Education"), which is like an immersion technique, enabling children to learn by rote. The theory behind it is that if young children can acquire language skills so easily, they can do the same with musical languages and become proficient on a musical instrument. Critics say that brute memorization (also classic preparation for Spelling Bees) isn't really learning, it's just reciting. But I digress.

The real musical challenge came when I moved from Kentucky to California and had to find a new violin instructor. I don't know where my parents found him, but I started with a cranky old Russian master, Aaron Sten (founder of the California Youth Symphony and the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra). He's passed away now (February 27, 1994 at age 77), but back in the day he was a formidably impatient teacher. He taught passion and demanded perfection and gave me incredibly difficult pieces to try, all the while disparaging my previous training. Unfortunately, I wasn't made to be a virtuoso, but at least I learned about discipline, gained a deep respect for classical artistry and started to attend more symphonic concerts. To this day, I don't clap between movements. I also learned how to read music, which helped me in my singing.

So even though I'm sure my mother is still disappointed not to see me in Carnegie Hall, I feel like I experienced something profound and will never forget Mr. Sten. He was a great teacher, even when screaming at me, because it came from a place of true wisdom. Thank you, Maestro. Oh and in case you were wondering, a fiddle is a violin and a violin is a fiddle. The only difference is the location.

"Spontaneous joy in music, in performing or listening, comes naturally to the young, and it is a privilege to feel its spark". - Aaron Sten Read more!