When I was a kid, I was quite a lousy violin player. People kept telling me how talented I was, but at times this made me feeling really bad. My bad conscience grew bigger and bigger because I was only practicing once a week (right before the lesson!). It almost felt like a betrayal of some sort. I got laurels without making much of an effort.
What actually made the turn from reluctant fiddler to passionate Flesch player (=scales and arpeggios for violin) was the experience to play with people who were much better than me.
When I started playing string quartet, I got hooked. And I enjoyed something that most people resist, I loved to play second violin.
Everyone wants to play first. Being the first means being the first and it means playing melody all day long. It means being the hero.
I, on the other hand was quite comfortable with being number two. Because
– one – I got to play with amazing and much more skilled people than me
– two – I loved to not always be in the limelight, just here and there. And I knew being a really good co-pilot is a quality of itself.
I kept close to my heart what my beloved violin professor at the University Ulrike Danhofer (RIP, I loved the lessons with you!!) got me to understand.
She taught me this: A fine wine is not just some red juice. As a great piece of music is not just a melody.
An exquisite wine has a beautiful bottle that holds everything together, that is the bass. Then there is the prestigious label on the bottle. It is lovely to look at and shows some name to be proud of. That’s the first violin, that’s the star player everyone admires.
But here comes the clue. What actually is IN the bottle, the wine itself, is the second violin and the viola. THEY make the quality of the whole thing. THEY make all the difference. They make the experience over the top super hyper amazing – or average.
What does a beautiful bottle and impressive label mean, if the wine itself is no good?
I remember training with a bassoon quartet for a competition with fantastic young artists age 9 to 12. Some jealousy crept, everyone wanted to play the first part. So I told them the wine analogy and I could sense how much they understood the concept.
After the competition, two of the mothers approached me. They both told me that they asked their child if they would not prefer to play FIRST bassoon. The answer was: “But Mum, I AM the fine wine and when I play really well we are a good bassoon band!”
This made me smile. It’s true.
Life is not about being first. It’s about being the best you can be wherever you are.
With so much love,
p.s. The amazing Scott Pool out of Texas (Associate Professor of Music, Texas A&M Corpus Christi) did a beautiful recording of our Tango inutile (from Tango Etüden PRO). For some reason the word “inutile” made him think of a faculty meeting… Thank you for this awesome work, we love it! :o)