Going down hard/the aging of the Boomers Part SEVEN – Where was I?


It is so important to stay curious as you reach your sixties and seventies.  The mind will continue to respond to fresh stimuli if it likes what it is contemplating. 

I had always dreamed about playing the violin so I began to study around my fiftieth year.  I had played the viola for a couple of years in my twenties, but one day in 1976 I loaned my bow to someone and they never returned it so I waited until 1996 to get another bow.  (A fine example of cracker-jack, not a moment to waste thinking.)

 At the time of initiating my latest fantasy I was employed by the San Diego Symphony as a plucked-string jack of all trades.  Guitar, banjo, mandolin, lute, whatever string instrument was needed I played.   Now all of my friends in the Orchestra thought I was completely nuts when I expressed in my desire to take up the fiddle. Typical comments sounded like this:

“Oh Art, you can’t be serious, you have to start when you’re five years old.  It’s impossible to achieve anything worthwhile on the violin if you start at Fifty.  Maybe you could take up fly fishing?”

Okay not to puff up my chest too big here but I started against common sense to seriously conquer to whatever degree I could, the ability to play decently on the violin.  This started in 1996 and in 2003, seven years later, I was standing on stage doing a two jazz violin concert with none other than Mark O’Connor, at his request! 

Now, you might ask, just how did this happen?  

Well first of all I have the discipline, well earned, of having been physically impaired most of my life.  I never cared for the term handicapped.  Polio at the age of five. This disease gave me patience and mucho will power as I plowed my way through life doing things that most physically deficient persons would never think to do.

So you may ask yourself was I that brave to go mountain climbing, or backpack by myself across Switzerland or be on the wrestling team in high school?  Absolutely not, I’m a devote coward, the secret is much simpler than that.   The very same formula that I used to get through life I applied to the violin.  Here it is: I was just too stupid to know any better.

There you have it straight from the horse’s mouth.  If you just don’t pay any attention to what is normally thought to be the tried and true method as if it were etched in granite, concerning what you dream about doing, then this formula, if it doesn’t get you killed, works every time.  The only person with the right to defeat you in anything you wish to do is yourself.  You can always attempt the ridiculous because you’ve always dreamed about it and if it doesn’t work out, several dry, vodka martinis consumed at your favorite bar will make everything fall into place.

I studied with a classical violinist who was extremely strict in practice and method and I had to check my ego at the front door of his house.  He demanded a lot of your time and if you didn’t come through up to his high standards then he let you know about it in the harshest of terms.  In other words I had to eat shit and think it was ice cream.  No problem, I wanted the play the fiddle and I knew he could pave the way.

Practice, practice, practice and then when you’re through for the day, think about it all night.  So that’s my story for this week.  This, however, was not what I had planned on talking about in this segment.

Where was I?

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