Sunday, February 28, 2010

Within the past two days there have been references in the New York Times to the fear-filled experience of youthful music study. One appeared in the obituary of a prominent cellist who, realizing that his young students were in tears but not learning anything, decided to "lighten up." The other was in a reader-submitted tribute to a recently deceased high school orchestra teacher.

What was striking about the first was that the teacher recognized in the distress of his young students the need to change his tone. In the other piece I was struck by the fact that the writer had not touched her viola in so long that her teenage children didn't even know she had one. Her connection to the teacher was real, but her connection to music had remained frozen.

She describes a reunion concert in which all the warm human interaction accessible through music is evoked, albeit through the misty veil of sentimentality. People get nostalgic even for the experience of being mocked and belittled, which she recalls vividly as part of the orchestra experience.

Had it been otherwise the viola would not have been untouched for so many years.

It occurs to me that fear-filled is dreadful.