Tuesday, May 31, 2011

my cup runneth over

David was really on to something when he came up with that image (Psalm 23).  There's only so much gratitude, hope, love, that a heart can hold.  I have a thimble, and God gives me an ocean.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Violin Lessons

Last semester, I had a few experiences in my violin lessons that felt like personal parables.

I started studying with a new teacher in January (my previous teacher broke his shoulder on New Year's Day and needed to drop some students).  At my first lesson, we discussed the repertoire I'd be learning that semester.  The conversation went something like this:
Professor Woods said, "I want you to learn the Tchaikovsky violin concerto".
"Are you sure you think I can do that?"  
"I know you can.  As humans, we sometimes put ourselves in boxes.  We construct ceilings for ourselves.  This week, I don't want you to stress out, but I'm asking you to bust through the ceiling.  Be smart, effective, and creative.  See how much is possible.  I want you to memorize the first two pages by your next lesson."
I didn't think it was realistic.  (Have you heard the Tchaikovsky violin concerto?)  But I decided to exert the faith necessary to give it a try.  I removed my ceilings of doubt and went to the library to check out the music. I listened to the part all week and practiced as efficiently as I could.  I enjoyed my practicing immensely that week.  By my next lesson, I had the first two pages memorized.  And it was a more solid, dynamic, musical memory than I'd ever had before.

Lesson #1:  Don't put yourself in a box.  Bust through the ceiling!  Our self-imposed constraints are fearful, mortal constructions.  God sees no limits on our possibilities.  

A few weeks into the semester, Professor Woods told me that my left hand needed work.  He wanted me to change my "handblock", which means that I'd have to spend at least a couple weeks playing nothing but the most basic scales and exercises.  It was a big deal.  It could take a long time for the new muscle-memory to assimilate into my playing.  I remember asking him,
"Do you promise that if I do this, it will eventually help my playing?"
"Annie, you've got to trust me.  I promise that if you make this change, it will be worth it.  Your intonation will improve, your vibrato will "ping" more, and you'll be able to play fast passages with more agility."
In retrospect it seems like a small change, but it took a lot of trust to go back to square one.  I remember telling God, "Okay, this is a decision I'm making, to exert the faith necessary to change this.  Please help me.  Please bless that it will be worth it."
It was tedious at first.  I could feel different hand and finger muscles working.  I practiced in front of a mirror all the time to make sure my wrist was in the proper place.  After a couple weeks, I graduated from scales back to my repertoire.  By the end of the semester, playing the violin was noticeably easier.  The Tchaikovsky fell under my fingers.  Even fast runs and double-stops were clean and in tune.  This simple (although not necessarily easy) change had made a big difference in my playing.

Lesson #2: Small changes, when thoughtfully chosen and diligently implemented, can lead to life-changing blessings in our lives.  I can feel Heavenly Father saying, "Annie, I promise that if you make this change, you'll be closer to me.  You'll have more peace, more stillness, more happiness in your life.  Trust me."

Both of these lessons have root in the same principle, one I have learned before and will continue to learn as long as I live:  Trusting God is worth it.  He sees us for who we truly are, and can guide us perfectly because He's not limited like we are by our fearful, mortal misconceptions of ourselves.  We are His children.

No Regrets

I feel a bit like I am in no-man's-land.  I am 97.2% sure I want to change my major, after two fun, full, and fruitful years in the violin performance program.  I love the music program.  I have made incredible friends, developed meaningful relationships with faculty, accrued interesting and useful knowledge, loved playing in ensembles, and improved drastically as a  musician.  But I don't want a career in professional music.  I see myself as a mom with a part-time violin studio, and I'd love to play in a local orchestra.  The point is: I already have the necessary experience for what I want.  
So I'm taking a leap of faith and forging out into the realm of (probably) Neuroscience.  But that's not what this post is about.  

This post is about why I have absolutely zero regrets about spending two full years on my minor.

In addition to all the reasons I listed above for loving the music program, the study (and attempt at mastery) of the violin has taught me a lot about life.  The hours I've spent in the practice rooms with my violin have taught me diligence, patience, creativity, persistence, discernment, and appreciation for beauty.  Playing in string quartets has shown me the thrill of contributing as part of a unified group to create something lovely.  Perfecting and performing masterpieces has given me satisfaction and gratitude.  And there is nothing as exhilarating as being part of an ocean of magnificent, orchestral sound. 

Thoughts on Hell

I once read an idea quoted from a Buddhist teacher, something like, "Hell is wanting to be somewhere different from where you are; wishing that reality was different."  
I've thought a lot about that.  
It's true; there is something miserable and stifling about refusing to accept the situation you are in.  And there is something serene, humbling, heavenly, about living this moment, whatever it is, with openness and curiosity.
This is a skill I want to cultivate.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good Listening

I listened to Russel M. Nelson's most recent conference talk this morning and was lifted.  It's a gorgeous talk.  If you want to read or listen to it, here it is:

Elder Nelson - Face the Future with Faith

Sunday, May 8, 2011

This Rain makes me feel like I'm in Ireland or something, not Utah

Life is good, but it's not easy.  It would be lame if it were easy.  In fact, if it were easy, it probably wouldn't be nearly as good.  But enough circular mumbling.  Some of the things that made my life good this week:

1)  Riding my bike.  The weather suddenly decided to be Spring, and I celebrated by turning to bike transportation as the easiest and most fun way to get around.  Rode to yoga class with good friends, rode to my brother's house to visit, rode to the temple, rode to the park for a soccer practice, etc.  It was fantastic.  My favorite thing is how the wind whooshes on my skin when I'm riding downhill.

2)  My friends.  I have realized how opulently blessed I am in the realm of friends.  Heavenly Father has really placed some first-rate people in my circle of acquaintance.

3)  Tulips.

4)  Sonatas.  Something about playing beautiful music in a small-ensemble setting just makes me so joy-filled.  Tonight I went over to a friend's house to play some sonatas.  He sight-read a bunch of Mozart amazingly well and we just played together for an hour or so.  It wasn't polished or perfect, but it was fun, and just the boost I needed.