A fun concert and a mixed box.

The Studio Concert last Friday night was a lot of fun.  Hopefully also for the audience!  Of course the main purpose of our studio concerts is to provide that performing experience for the students; it fulfilled those criteria beautifully.  We also hold the concerts to allow the parents, relatives and supporters that social experience, to have an opportunity to chat with other violin / guitar parents and compare notes.  All round, the fact that some of the performances were truly fun and good to listen to comes as a delightful bonus.

The weather had something special in store for us on the night, though.  It was so hot and dry that ALL, yes, every last one of our violins (including mine!) needed retuning more than once, even on stage.  While I expect a few (1 to 4, usually no more than that) slipped strings on any studio concert, this one was over the top.  Eventually I was even apologizing for the weather!

The concert was concluded with a flourish by the Irish band that has been going for a little while now.

So today I picked up the results of our violin exams.

As a studio we have a complete spread.  Bravo to those who aced, and well done to those who passed.

If you did not pass (even if you did pass or ace), there are a number of things to learn from this.  I’m summarizing them here.

– Firstly: You will perform exactly the way you practiced.

Perhaps this exam session was the most accurate reflection I’ve seen yet, of that principle.  Ask yourself:  Did you practice for passing, merit or distinction?  Or didn’t you really bother practicing much?  Were you too busy with other stuff?  Did you practice daily, or at least 5 – 6 times per week?  Did you practice for an hour every time?  Did you practice carefully, isolating and polishing every problem area, or did you simply skim over the pieces a couple of times and pack away, smug in the idea that you’ve “done your practicing”?  Did you simply rehash your mistakes, or did you approach every piece like an artwork to be improved, chiselled, smoothed into shape?  Did you ever stop for a mistake?  When you did, how often did you play it correctly?  Did you work on your expression at all?  Did you fully integrate your expression into the movements of your bow arm?

You see, when you perform (and especially in an exam), you are under stress.  When under stress, the adrenaline in your body inhibits your creative thinking.  Biochemical truth!  And when you can’t think creatively, your brain will run along well-trodden pathways and do exactly what it has been practicing; it is physically inhibited from trying anything new.  So, the better you have laid down the pathway for your brain to run along, the better you will play.  End of story!

– Secondly:  Failing, or falling short of what you wanted to achieve, is always an opportunity for learning.

So perhaps you failed, or perhaps you wanted a distinction and didn’t get one.  It really is the same:  An opportunity for growth.

Do you realize that some people struggle in school?  Every math test is an adventure for them, a horror story they need to survive, every time they shiver and worry whether they will even pass?  In my experience, my violin kids as a group don’t have that problem.  Perhaps you’re not an A-student, but I’ve rarely had students who did badly academically (and those who did, improve fairly quickly once they start playing!).  So, as a rule, musicians tend to find school easy – almost too easy.  They are not used to failing.  So failing a violin exam may be a brand new experience, and feel like the world is about to end.

You know, it isn’t.

Perhaps you need the challenge of failing, to teach you how to deal with it.  Perhaps this is the only opportunity you’ll ever have, to fail at something and realize that it isn’t the end of the world; that one simply tries again, or carries on along the path.

Think about it.

A word to the parent:

I’ll write a word to the parents later.  There is no time now to finish this post.  Look out for the next one.

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3 thoughts on “A fun concert and a mixed box.”

  1. That’s the beauty of the violin – it isn’t easy for ANYONE. It presents a problem even for the most intelligent and the most gifted. Some people never run into a problem for most of their youth and the first time they do it’s a tragedy. This never happens to violinists. We all know the meaning of not succeeding, picking ourselves up and trying again, analyzing the problem and trying yet again. When you learn to play the violin, you are also learning about life and how to succeed – a valuable lesson indeed. All the great violinists practice hours a day for their whole lives, as you never completely solve the problems the violin presents. Keeps you busy! As the immortal comedian Jack Benny (who really was a pretty good violinist, contrary to his persona), “Ya gotta practice even to be lousy!”

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