All About Perspective

My violin teacher and I spent a fantastic afternoon yesterday discussing what I want to do next.

It’s an important juncture. There’s a point in business where you have to decide if it’s a hobby or a business. Is it worth it to do the un-fun things?

Many of us violinists pick up the violin because we want to make a beautiful sound with a bow on some strings. Most of us didn’t manage to do that for a while. Then the challenge was to make that beautiful sound reliably. Most people stop there for a good reason. The next step is work.

And musically, we want melody lines. So when we join an orchestra, we discover that the better violinists get melody. Until we become better, we have to wade through line after line of obtuse mazes of harmony trying not to lose our place. Grasping for a snippet of melody, until we realize we are doubled (and drowned out) by the winds or the firsts.

Once you hit first violin, while you play what sound like finger exercises peppered with snippets of melody, your friends get involved. “Hey, you’re pretty good. People should be paying you.”

Don’t believe em. Right now, you are good enough for your friends to pay to see you. You will never see the money, of course, because running a volunteer orchestra has costs. And they can be well worth the camaraderie, but they won’t get you ahead individually.

So you get a teacher and work really hard. Then you get noticed, sort of. There’s always agents. The teacher makes a little, the agents make a little, the gas stations and airlines make a little.

My family asks if I make a lot of money. The answer is no, I have what is really a very expensive course of serious study on the violin.

Will I ever make a lot of money? No. Artistically, I will spend my life striving. Financially, I will have to put higher and higher amounts of money into my instrument, my training, my travel, my concert dress wardrobe, my living expenses.

But it is a life of beauty, of gut wrenching pain, anxiety, love, drama, subtlety, passion and power. A life lived with your fingers dancing in the flame, cursing the pain, but unable to escape the allure of the fire of an infinite pheonix continuously arising.

Humanity is drawn to this. This is why we attend concerts, toss a buck in the busker’s case, sit in the car waiting for the song to finish, and, for some of us, practice endless hours of scale exercises.


About Shelly Crouse-Monarez

Violin Performer and Mentor
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One Response to All About Perspective

  1. Brian says:

    I read something about writing a long time ago that I think applies equally to music (I think it may have been Ray Bradbury who said it, but I’m not sure): if you can be discouraged from writing by failure, rejection, and hardship, then you’re not really a writer.

    Of course, it’s a bit different for music. Writing is something you can do alone, for free, with extremely minimal tools. Music requires equipment and logistical support: you have to have an instrument and its accessories (or else a fair level of technological infrastructure); you need time and space to practice; and if you’re trying to do it professionally, you need people to work with, which is a whole other level of complexity. And eventually, as with any creative endeavor, once you reach a certain level you have to turn it into a business if you want to go any further.

    But I still think the statement applies. I have trouble imagining that you could ever be dissuaded from making music. The lovely thing is, if you keep at it and keep getting your name out there, it WILL become easier, because others will help you (just look at the Ukraine and Bulgaria trips). Writers don’t get that, because the necessities are so minimal that they don’t really need the help.

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