The Red Violin

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The wood of my violin used to be a deep red. It used to be polished and shiny, the rich color standing out among the other violins in the shop. I rented it a week after I had turned ten, as a birthday present to myself. I loved it more than the world, until I actually started playing it. That was when I had realized something: playing violin is really, really hard. My fingers couldn’t hold the bow correctly and I dropped it more times than I could count. My left hand, responsible for every note that I played, betrayed me every day. My fingers throbbed after every ten minute practice and the dent of the string marked my fingers for weeks afterwards. That first year, I hated violin more than anything.


The second year was even worse. Everyone who had struggled with me the year before suddenly became Mozart as they flawlessly played everything our teacher gave us. I was left behind, forced to blame my terrible playing on the prescription of my glasses, claiming that I couldn’t see the right notes. By this time, my fingers had grown calluses to help slide on the string but they still abandoned me every time I had to play C sharp. To make it all worse, my teacher refused to let me drop to the beginner class, even though I was probably closer to their level than the advanced level of my friends. What I didn’t realize, and what my teacher had known all along, was that my fear of being left behind by my rapidly advancing peers forced me to practice until my fingers bled and my hand couldn’t close all the way.


There were sixty five of us that first year in fourth grade. By fifth, there were seven. Three went on to middle school, and by the time high school rolled around, there was only me. I begged my friends to continue on with me so that I wouldn’t be the only one, but they were tired of aching fingers and lugging the huge case to and from school everyday.  I never quit playing, partly because after so long it had become part of who I am. I could never abandon my dear violin, who had moved with me and lived with me through all the dreadful practices, the adrenaline filled concerts, and hardships of balancing practice with homework and sports. My violin was an old friend, always supporting me and providing a stress reliever and a quiet moment in my hectic daily cycle of sleep-school-soccer-clubs-homework-swim.


Freshman year I outgrew my red violin, along with my old group of friends, music, and style, and bought a new violin that was a deep orange color. This one didn’t have the peeling tape my old one had to remind me of where to put my fingers. It was different in almost every way, but then again, so was I. I had swapped long straightened hair for my short natural curls, and my priorities had shifted from ‘make time to play violin’ to ‘balance violin with sports, magazine editor duties, volunteer service, and homework’. 


Up until a year ago, I never understood why I continued to play the violin. It was annoying to bring to school, took up at least an hour of valuable homework time to practice, was loud and screeching at times and added a layer of stress to everything when concerts came around. But those countless hours I spent hunched over sheet music were unforgettable. The feeling of pride that filled me when I managed to play a hard verse correctly made me feel warm to my core. And at the end of every day, no matter if I got a bad test score or missed a goal in soccer or came in last in my swim race, I just take a deep breath, tune my violin, and start playing.






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