I’ve been “out of the game” for many years now. It’s not that my time in the community symphony back in Sacramento was bad or anything. It’s just that it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. And I don’t know if I would have realized that it wasn’t enough unless I moved here. I might have just kept up with it and sort of limped along, instead of really going after something better.
But now, because I am so *completely* out of the game (I didn’t know a single soul when I moved here), the decision of what to do, where to turn, what to seek, has been a very conscious one. I’ve had to decide what it is that I really want. And then look for that. I put an ad on Craigslist. I played fiddle in a couple of bands. It was great–it felt alive & fun and I’ll probably keep going with it. But it’s still not enough. I took my viola in to get worked on, and the guy says, “there’s a community symphony at such & such a place”… and something sort of came to the surface right when he said it. In that moment, it snapped. I realized: I don’t want that. My stomach kind of clenched. I smiled at the guy, and nodded, because that’s what he expects, you know? But as I’m sitting there I’m realizing: No. No more community symphonies. I need more.
What I want is to play my viola. Really play it. Play it like I should have played it 10 years ago. I realized this week that I have been playing the viola for twenty years now. TWENTY YEARS. And I only had a really, *really* good teacher for one of those years. I had a “good” teacher for two years, and an “okay” teacher for two years. I only had a really good teacher for one year. And she was a grad student.
It could have been different. I was at BYU, for crying out loud. While David Dalton was still there. And why didn’t I get to study with David Dalton? Why didn’t I study with Claudine Bigelow after Dr. Dalton retired? Because I didn’t practice enough. Simple as that. “You need to practice more,” they told me. Try again in a year.
But did I want to practice for hours every day when I was young? No, not really. I was a lazy cuss. Did I figure out that I could have studied with some TRULY great teachers if I had only spent a couple more lousy hours on it, instead of being shuffled off to the side and taught by people who were only sort of okay? No. Did it occur to me, back when I was young, what an extraordinary thing it was that I was working in the Primrose International Viola Archive, shelving scores *every day*… in the single largest collection of viola scores on the planet, some of them donated by William Primrose himself? Did that whopper of a thing make a dent in my young, thick head? No.
But now that I’m older, I think I’m just barely (juuuust barely) realizing what it meant, back during those days when I *was* practicing for hours a day, what I could have had, and what I could have again. If I actually got off my lazy butt and did something about it.
So I’ve been practicing. Every day. Every spare minute I have. And I emailed a viola professor and asked if he accepts students. “Yes,” he says. “On a limited basis.” So the question hangs there, in the air… unspoken.
The really high-caliber teachers… they just don’t take you unless they want you. They don’t have to. That’s why I got shuffled off to the side at BYU while the other kids got to be taught by the great musicians. That’s why the teacher I emailed back in Sacramento never even bothered to return my calls or emails. They’re busy. And they care about people that are relevant to the future of music. If they decide you’re not it, you’re out.
So will I make the cut? Because now it’s been 10 years. I’m old. It’s going to be an uphill battle now. To convince a teacher that, no, I’m really serious this time. Yes, I know I screwed off for years when I should have been spending time on the things that really mattered. Please, please hold the door. Don’t close it on me. Don’t give up on me yet. I can still make this.