O’Connor inspired thoughts

I am nearly five years out of grad school now. I’ve been seeing the professional world, for all its grandeur and all its ills. The money coming in is hard to argue against, and the fact that there is no safety net should I decide to not prepare something as much as I should is certainly terrifying, yet keeps me accountable much more than school ever did. My attitude through school was always the same: I am a performer. Teaching will be something I do to supplement the income I make while performing.

If I were to speak with grad student Casey today, she would be a little surprised that I just completed a weekend of teacher training in the Mark O’Connor Violin Method. She’d be even more surprised that I have come away from it with quite an emotional reaction.

It’s subtle for sure, but my inner monologue has been trying to sort out exactly what I’ve been feeling since my graduation ceremony a mere 31 hours prior to me typing these words. Our wonderful teacher, Pamela Wiley, kept bringing up our “ceremony” throughout the day, which was usually accompanied by a few bemused giggles. The class we were graduating from was only 18 hours long. It’s not like we’ve spent weeks upon weeks to really develop and grow as a class. It’s a credit to Ms. Wiley that she was able to make the end of the class as monumental as she did, given the short time we had together. But when we were instructed to stand and play the closing piece of O’Connor’s second book along with a CD of Yo-Yo Ma and the Colorado Symphony, there was a childhood sense of pride that overwhelmed me. I was all but puffing out my chest, as I commended myself for not only being so open to the ideas that were presented to me, but really understanding what it meant for myself as a teacher and a musician.

Here are some highlighted points of what I learned in this class:

  • Feel.
  • Just about everything comes back to Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down.
  • Feel.
  • There is more than one valid way to hold a bow, even if I cringe thinking of any other way than my own.
  • Emotional reactions to music don’t always come naturally to everyone. Some people can’t access them easily, and others are afraid to have them at all.
  • Feel.
  • My wonderful instrument actually has the capacity to be many, many more instruments than I have ever given it credit for.
  • Who I am as a musician is naturally a mix and sum of the musicians I have worked with in the past.
  • Fiddle Boy is serious business. Do not mess with Fiddle Boy.
  • FEEL, dagnabit.

I am so excited and so nervous about next year. I feel as though I have had a brilliant and shiny sword given to me, and as soon as it’s my turn to use it, my teacher leaves the room. I could almost call after her and say “Wait! I know I’ve seen you swing this thing a million times, but aren’t you going to watch me try it?” I stop myself, however, when she smiles back with a quiet confidence and trust that I will use my own abilities to swing it just how it’s supposed to be swung. Sure, I’ll second-guess at the beginning when to parry and thrust, but I know it won’t be long before I have the use of this thing nailed.

Ooh, and the best part – you want to know the best part? My students won’t just pick up on what I’m saying, they’ll pick up on my excitement and enthusiasm as well. They may not know where it comes from, but they know what it can do. They will FEEL it. And then their music education can become a pivotal thing in their lives, not allowing it to just be something they happen to do. No matter what they may end up doing after they leave my studio, I consider that the greatest victory of all.

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