Exactly two weeks from writing this post I’m going to be diving into a musical pool that I suspect is well deeper than I even now suspect, and will leave me securely over my head for a few longs days: I’m participating in an adult summer orchestral music camp with the local symphony.
It seemed like a great idea four months ago when I signed up for it.
The little advert in the symphony program for the concert we were attending showed a smiling musician luring wannabe symphonists into a comfortable tease of opportunity, a chance to play on the very stage we were about to watch a grand professional performance.
Much of my initial inspiration to learn the violin was fed by our frequent visits to the local symphony. We’d been attending for years, and I’d watch from the audience and wonder… wonder until the allure got too strong and I found myself ordering a student-grade violin from the internet one September morning, signing up for lessons, and suddenly becoming this guy who would spend a bit of time each night sawing away on some simple songs in his living room.
Nearly two years have passed since my “Attempt at a Midlife Crazy” began, and it hasn’t got any less so… less crazy, I mean. Practice. Lessons. Random performances. More practice. More lessons.
Now, or two weeks from now, I’ll be hauling my instrument to the stage doors of the local concert hall and warming up my strings with a group of (so they tell us) “rusty musicians” looking for some promised experience of a grand performance of our own, learning our small part of some orchestral works, and then beckoning hundreds of family and (perhaps even) friends to sit and listen as we perform.
But then reality has hit pretty hard over the last few weeks: simply, they sent us our sheet music.
I mean, honestly, I’ve worked my way up to being fairly comfortable with third level Royal Conservatory (RCM) music, and I’ve started dabbling in some of the more intermediate techniques of fiddle and I’ve started poking at the level 4 RCM pages with some reluctance to jump in too deep, and I’ve done a hundred other little things to push forward my knowledge of how to play this instrument…
…but this music is, in the words of my teacher, “way over my head!”
Advanced notations. Strings of notes only attainable in eighth position. Pages of double-stop slurs. And just in general, pages and pages (and pages and pages) of very long songs. Way. Over. My. Head.
Creeping anxiety has beset me.
To make matters slightly worse, when I started practicing some of this sheet music it became ridiculously apparent that I was using a student-grade instrument. My little Stentor II has served me well over the last years, and it was my pride and joy when I researched it and then ordered it. I suddenly was a guy with a violin. Yet, I knew it was just a learners model. I know it had a limited life: someday I would play and listen and think, I’ve hit a wall with this factory-built violin-shaped bit of wood, and no matter how well it was glued together in some overseas sweatshop, it was gonna hit a limit. That day cam a little quicker than I would have thought thanks to adult band camp: like showing up at a photography class with your iPhone camera… like showing up to take a cooking class with a box of mac and cheese… like looking down the corral of a marathon and realizing you’re wearing flip-flops.
Need I go on?
Instead of wallowing, I found some budget and then I went violin shopping, and thus started a process akin to adopting a pet (so much so that the adoption is still, technically, not final!) And then I got a nicer case to carry that new violin in. And then I picked up a fancier (hand-crafted German pernambuco) bow because playing an 89 year old handcrafted instrument with the free bow that came with my cheap student instrument was something like wearing a clip-on-tie with a bespoke designer suit. I now own two complete violin kits, one of which may just become my lugging around fiddle instrument for camping trips… or maybe I’ll find a new home for it.
Now, I continue preparing.
I’ve contacted the camp organizers looking for a glimmer of encouragement. I’ve been learning three octave scales on crazy-repeat. I’m burning sixth, seventh, and eighth position notes into my memory. I’ve dug into some of the more challenging bits of the provided sheet music in an attempt to (at the very least) hear it in my head.
And at worst, I’m mentally prepared to just make more selfies than good music…