Daily Prompt: Tell us about something you would attempt if you were guaranteed not to fail (and tell us why you haven’t tried it yet).
Weeks before I was to enter third grade, my parents received a letter from my new intermediate school informing them that I would be required to take a weekly music class. I could choose to sing in the chorus or take up an instrument. Perusing the list of acceptable instruments, I formed a quick and inexplicable attachment to the idea of the viola.
“Why not the violin?” everyone asked me when I proudly showed off my half-size rented viola. “Everyone’s heard of the violin. Wait, what is a viola, anyway?”
I think it was exactly that air of mystery — that almost universal unfamiliarity — that drew me to the instrument. I didn’t want to be like everyone else and start my musical education on a violin. The viola was bigger, with a deeper and (in my opinion, anyway) much richer sound. Sure, when it came to orchestra arrangements we almost always played second fiddle (ha) to our smaller and shriller cousin, but we violas provided a musical backbone for the rest of the orchestra. Or at least that’s what my music teacher kept telling us.
The viola and I ended up getting along surprisingly well, and I continued with the instrument for a full decade. I started weekly private lessons in addition to my school lessons, my parents bought me a “real” instrument and I eventually joined about 87 different extracurricular orchestras. I found making music to be both satisfying and fun.
But so were other things, and as I advanced through high school my attention began to be drawn elsewhere — to the school newspaper, my paying jobs, my boyfriend. I stopped practicing nearly as much as my private teacher would have liked, and although I continued to participate in music-related activities, it became pretty clear that I wasn’t going to make a career of the viola. After graduating high school, I flirted briefly with the idea of continuing to play in college, but once I settled in Virginia I reached the conclusion that I was burned out from music. Over the next several years my viola case was tucked away under a series of beds and, although I would take it out and “noodle around” from time to time, I never again played it seriously.
Today, although I don’t regret not trying to go further with my playing (I can’t imagine having chosen a career path that doesn’t primarily involve writing), I still think back fondly to my time as a viola player and appreciate the incredible talent of those who have managed to make it their livelihood. I’m especially in awe of any player who has taken strides to make string music “cool” by playing the electric viola, which I think is one of the coolest things on the planet.
All of this is to say that if I were guaranteed not to fail, I would love to learn the electric viola and play as part of a rock band. I wouldn’t need to become famous — the band could consist of a bunch of grizzled 65-year-olds playing cover songs in a dive bar for all I care. All that matters is that I would be good enough to feel like a true musician and “wow” a few people in the process.
Of course, a few factors are keeping this particular fantasy at bay. One, I don’t think I have the drive to come home from a full day of work and practice the long, long hours it would require to whip me back into any sort of musical shape, especially since playing rock music on an electric instrument would require starting pretty much from scratch. Two, while I was a pretty decent player at my peak, I was never good enough to be able to improvise musically, which I believe is a pretty major part of playing in a band. And three, I’m not a big fan of putting myself out there publicly and I think I would require whole lot of Xanax to get me through every performance.
But a girl can still dream. As was inscribed by fellow alto clefs all over my high school yearbooks, violas rock!
Photo courtesy of ccho