Tuesday, February 23, 2010

InkMom Spills Everything, Part One

My dear readers -- thank you for fueling my ego by asking genuine questions about my life. I've since questioned the wisdom of being so blatantly narcissistic . . . but why fight against my true nature? We have already established that I was first in line when they handed out self-esteem (and then I went to the back of the line for a second helping) and this little jaunt into my brain will not disappoint, I promise. Let's dive right in, shall we?

I'll begin at the beginning, with Kristina P.'s question:

1. "What did you want to be when you grew up?"

Good one, KP. I was pretty sure I remembered what I wanted to be when I was little, but I dug out my old journal for corroboration. Can we just say that the only constant through the years with me has been melodrama? Seriously. Direct quote: "I dream of one day becoming a concert pianist, but I doubt it will come true. I am afraid that by the time I am old enough to become any type of concert musician, the world will be too far gone in wars and all that, that people won't appreciate music and art and beautiful things like I do anymore."

It's true. I had no friends.

But for real. I wanted to be a concert pianist. Until, oh, about eighth grade when I played in a REALLY BIG and important competition. I was a wreck for weeks before -- trouble eating, no sleeping. I read the DH Lawrence story, "The Rocking-Horse Winner" and felt just like that kid -- absolutely desperate to get the right answers. I still have nightmares about that day in the little room at Wake Forest University -- me, the judges, and about 40 other spectators. In my nightmare, I crumble slowly, forgetting music that was so ingrained in me that to this very day, 20 years later, I can still play those three pieces. I stood up from the piano, nearly in tears, and knew with absolute certainty that I would never, ever, ever be able to do that again. (For you piano aficionados: Mozart, Sonata in a, K. 310: Allegro maestoso; Schubert, Impromptu No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 90; Debussy, Jardins sous la pluie from Estampes.)

I came home from the competition and half-heartedly continued my piano lessons while throwing myself into the study of my secondary instrument: viola. And I never looked back.

There were brief times during my education when I entertained the possibility of doing something non-musical with my life. I seriously considered going to medical school to become a forensic pathologist -- this was before CSI (no lie here: I wanted to be a doctor without having to deal with any living people) -- and even went so far as to shadow a few pathologists in high school and take all the science prerequisites. I also thought about joining the family business and going to pharmacy school, and spent about 15 minutes thinking about law school and politics, but my heart was never in any of it. I just wanted to play. Lucky for me, it's what I still get to do.

This brings me to Lara's question:

2. "Why did you choose the viola?"

Another good one! And it comes with a lengthy explanation. The orchestra world is full of jokes about one instrument or another, but none are more maligned than the viola. (How do you tell when a violist is playing out of tune? The bow is moving.)(Just for you, Lara: Why was the soprano standing in the rain? Because she couldn't find the key and didn't know when to come in.) Apparently, violinists who can't hack it switch instruments and suddenly their superior violin training makes them the top of the heap in the viola section.

In my experience I have not found this to be true. In fact, in both of my current orchestras, the viola sections are the strongest of the strings but that's beside the point. I was NEVER a violinist. I wear this badge with great pride. I am a viola purist, and a rarity in my field.

I chose the instrument for one reason, and one reason only: at the strings meeting in fourth grade where we signed up to start in the fall, the piece the teacher played to demonstrate the viola was the theme to Star Wars. I went to the meeting sure I was going to play the cello. I actually signed up for the cello, rented the instrument and everything. But I could not get that Star Wars theme out of my head, and finally, a few days before school started, I called the teacher and switched over.

I LOVED it. From the very first day. And, especially based on my ill-fated experience at the piano competition, it was a fantastic musical choice for me, because there have been a grand total of, like, six concerti ever composed for the viola. And I'm really just fine with that because what I love more than anything else is the orchestral ensemble experience. So that's what I do. And when I don't have little kids running around any more, I'll probably go back to teaching violin and viola lessons (the technique is truly just about the same, so I can play a violin if, I don't know, held at gunpoint).

I've about reached my word limit for the night, but I'll end with DeNae's thought-provoking question:

3. "If you weren't a violist, what would you do with all the anchovies? Please answer in complete sentences, and include at least one reference to Hairspray."

Well, DeNae, I had a hard time deciding if you were referring to the anchovy arthroplasty procedures I will undoubtedly need on my thumbs after years and years of viola playing, or the viola part of Daniel Catan's opera, Salsipuedes, A Tale of Love, War and Anchovies. But because I know you, like good old Edna Turnblad for her beloved Tracy, only have my best interests at heart, I am absolutely certain that you are concerned about my joints. And you're probably right. If I weren't a violist, I wouldn't actually need any anchovies. But aren't we glad such technically advanced procedures are available, and that I will be able to preserve the opposability of my thumbs after all? (HA!)

More questions answered tomorrow . . . I promise I'll get more than three done!

post signature


  1. Oh, DeNae slays me. I miss playing the piano. Haven't done so in years.

  2. First of all, thank you for clearing up the anchovy situation. I have always wondered about that!

    The concert mistress in our orchestra here is a violist. She hates that she has to do the violin (she's a professor, and part of her job description is the concert mistress gig). She's constantly trying to get Bria to switch to viola, but Bria won't have it. Perhaps I'll start Sophia on the viola. I asked, because I have a lot of good friends who are violists. Not so many that are violinists...

    And thanks for the laughs...those are good jokes...still chuckling.

  3. You. Are. Brilliant. Your answer to my question moved me, it really, really did.

    I've never been a good question asker. It is my number one problem as a teacher.

    And I love your explanation as to why you are a violist. As an alto (singer), I was seriously offended that I was required to train as a mezzo-soprano in college. No matter how hard I lobbied, I kept being told that women sang soprano, period. And while I do appreciate that my range was stretched upwards a bit, once I graduated from college I returned to my alto ways and, as you said, I never looked back.

    (For heaven's sake, my speaking voice is somewhere in the F below middle C range; what did they expect??)

    Please bring your instrument to the CBC! And some music. We'll find a piano somewhere and jam!

  4. Your responses are perfect!

    Your piano story reminded me of one of my own. I took piano lessons for 1 year. I learned enough to play hymns at church. Well, a seminary teacher learned this and one day, asked me out of the blue, if I could play the hymns that day.

    Let me make one thing clear: I can not play on the spot. Give me a week and I can play semi-perfectly.

    So, I went back to the piano and made so many mistakes that my teacher used a CD accompaniment for the next 2 songs. I felt so embarrassed.

    Still, I love the piano. Sigh. Maybe I will have one again someday.

  5. Just want you to know that you may not have had any friends, but I always thought you were adorable. Though that may have been because you appealed to the narcissist in me when you told me that you wanted to go to BYU just like me! ;)

  6. Oh, I've been away from reading blogs TOO LONG. This was awesome! I love learning more about you. (How did I miss that you play viola?!)

  7. I really didn't think you could answer DeNae's question seriously. And yet... you absolutely managed. I'm impressed. And would you believe that I, your beloved sister, didn't even know that's why you chose the viola?

  8. Wait! I forgot to ask you a question. If you were the General RS president (cuz you will be), what would be your soapbox-- the message you wish all women understood?

    Or if you're not up for serious questions, how about if you could sit at a dinner table with 12 people you've never met, who would it be (celebrities, historical figures, blog buddies-cough,cough...)?

  9. I love this post - so fun getting to know you better! You remind me a little of my best friend. Even if she is a violinist... =P

  10. Hey! Don't knock the violinists. (Of course, if you stick the word violin in for soprano in that second joke [which cracked me up to no end] then you'd have it just about right. . .)

    Loved this, right down to Catan!

    I was playing a piano concert once where I got to a certain place in my piece and completely forgot what I was supposed to play. It just left my mind completely.

    I stared at the piano for a bit, looked at the audience, verbally apologized (which cracked every one up) and started over again.

    For the record, I had to fudge my way through the part the second time because I still couldn't remember it.

    (Oh, and the truth is, if I could do it over, I'd probably switch to viola. I truly love the timbre of the viola better than the violin. Unfortunately I didn't discover this until well in to college.)

  11. I feel so special that I knew the viola story! And, despite the fact that, as a violinist, I've made my fair share of viola jokes, part of me really would love to switch to the viola--a bigger part wants to switch to the cello. But considering I don't really play much violin (since moving away from you), it doesn't really matter. I miss playing with you! Even if I did it poorly. How is our little orchestra? Do you still play with them?

  12. Ah, Star Wars. I knew you were a kindred spirit.


Sock it to me!