When I was two years old, I wanted to play the violin. My mother, a cellist, made me a toy violin out of half a coconut, so I started playing violin on a coconut. How funny is that?! (Maybe that’s why I’m so nutty! )
Now, decades later, I’ve traveled through so many phases with my dear friend, Violin…
As a child and later as a teenager, I had only one goal, and that was to become a great (and famous) soloist. I never questioned that goal – it was simply a given that it would eventually happen. I had no doubts. I won nearly every competition I entered, performed internationally, was featured in TIME Magazine, had some of the best teachers in the world, and was often treated like a princess for the obvious potential I displayed.
What never occurred to me was that I might someday change my mind and take my life in a completely different direction. When I was 19, I decided I had had enough and didn’t want to pursue a soloist’s lonely lifestyle. When I was 20, I got married and completely abandoned my childhood dreams.
That’s when I started playing in orchestras – something I’d never wanted to do.
The next thirteen years were interesting, and I gained a lot of experience as a violinist playing many different roles: Concertmaster, Associate Concertmaster, Section violinist, chamber musician, freelancer, violin teacher… all on the baroque violin as well as modern. I played in a Chicago studio for a McDonald’s commercial, and did injury to my sensitivities playing for a raucous “Young Messiah” show – something I swore never to do again!
After thirteen years, I tired of it and burned out. It felt like I’d “done it all”, and I had no more interest in any of it – save my baroque duo and performances with Apollo’s Fire. Those, I continued to enjoy from time to time.
When my second son was two years old, the Alexander Technique appeared as a saving grace of fresh air. Still, I very rarely touched my violin to practice. I knew I was growing, but I didn’t grow as a musician in the way people usually do – by practicing their instrument – because I simply had no desire. It seems my growth as a musician was happening under the surface.
Over the years I had found two golden treasures, two well-hidden keys to fundamental change and transformation. First, I paid a great deal of attention to the spirit of Love and Life Itself, and then I practiced the self-integration methods of the F. M. Alexander Technique. My fascination with the latter propelled me to become a teacher of the Technique in 2007.
To this day, I continue both of these practices, which to me are inseparable. As I have watched my evolution as a person and musician, I now very firmly believe – with absolute conviction – that this attentiveness to wondering “Who am I?”, with loving awareness of the present moment, is the best way to become a truly great musician.
The practice of Self-Realization is indispensable to the visionary musician with lofty ideals, because the Self is our primary instrument. My violin, beautiful instrument that it is, is merely secondary. It can only express what lives first within my mind, heart, and soul. Jennifer’s job is simply to observe and get out of the way, to allow the primary control, my Inner Musician, to sing through me and Violin.
My violin playing improves every single time I pay attention with simple, conscious awareness. Whenever I pick up my instrument now, something fundamentally different is happening from what used to happen. Something acts from deep within to integrate everything inside and out. Sometimes, it’s so subtle that I miss it; but more often than not, it serves to wake me up.
My journey continues.
These days, I find my curiosity piqued, enticing me to practice with my instrument on a near-daily basis again, completely free of pressure or ambition. I have no clear goals, other than to continue this musical journey of Self-Realization and to share my explorations and discoveries with others so inclined.
I feel so blessed to have met a very special person recently: Mio Morales, another musician and Alexander Technique teacher whose approach to Life, art, and AT are very similar to mine. Here’s a picture of Mio in Japan with Yasutaka Tonoike, who translates my blog into Japanese.
I have learned so much from him already, and my students have been asked his First Easy Question, “How easy is my neck?” every since I was introduced to it at a conference in Ireland last August.
When Mio offers his keen and quiet attention, nourishing me with ideas for my practice, for a short while I am brought back to my childhood violin lessons, a time when my passion to learn and grow as a musician made me play – I was told – “like a samurai”.
When I ask “How easy is my neck?”, I notice what is happening, and my heightening awareness celebrates with movements that become surprisingly light and easy. With calm and rapt curiosity, I wonder what will happen next as I pick up my beloved violin. I love to explore the beauty…
Just a few minutes every day of highly conscious violin practice – on my own and well-supported by the love of a wise and caring friend…this is enough.
The tiniest events have the power to alter the course of destinies… or to cause a garden of giant roses to spring from a ground long prepared by waiting.
I wonder where this growing Consciousness will take me and my dear old friend, Violin. It’s already taking me for a wondrous ride…
Maybe I will end up in the stars…
Maybe I’m there already…
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