Traditionally, a modern symphony orchestra will arrange their strings (minus the bass section): 1st violin, 2nd violin, viola, cello (from left to right in a semi-circle formation). More recently, in an effort to arrange the orchestra so that the violas are more clearly heard, an increasing number of conductors have adopted the Baroque seating: 1st violin, 2nd violin, cello, viola. Still, other conductors have desired the 2nd violins to be on the outside of the semi-circle and act as a more independent section; therefore, the arrangement is: 1st violin, viola, cello, 2nd violin. I have experienced several seating combinations throughout the years; I use the word "experience," because, as a musician, where you sit in the formation dramatically changes the "feel" of rehearsals and performances that particular orchestra.
Last week--my world was shattered. While rehearsing Haydn's "London Symphony" with the Butler Symphony Orchestra (where I sit in the 1st violin section), the conductor asked us to sit in "quartets" (1st violin, 2nd violin, viola, cello). I was no longer with a group of violinists all playing the same notes and moving their bows in the same direction; suddenly, I was sitting next to a cellist and a 2nd violinist. Once each of us found our new "home," the conductor gave us a cue to begin the fourth movement--we began and he walked away. In that moment, everything else faded away, but the music. My eyes began to look at other players around me and my body began to move in response to the energy that flowed from their instruments. In an instant, not only did my physical perspective change, but my aural perspective shifted; I was beginning to "lock-in" to how my musical line connected with those around me. The notes rang clearer and the independent lines began to connect in my mind unlike ever before. The voices around me asked a question and my instrument effortlessly answered. Somehow, these two worlds I love so dearly had merged: orchestral playing and chamber music. I could not help but smile. My face could not stop from laughing. Joy flowed from my heart and seeped into my instrument. The dream of breathing and playing as "one instrument," "one voice," "one organism" became a reality.
My overwhelming response: Surprise and awe. Who knew that moving to different seat in a classroom would change my life forever?!
“Music is the true breath of life. We eat so we won't starve to death. We sing so we can hear ourselves live.”
Today I said goodbye to another student. It is so difficult for me to let go of students, as I'm sure it is for many teachers. This is the second student to move away this summer. And although, I want the best for all of my students, it is always a bittersweet moment when saying, "Farewell!"
Despite my feeling a deep sense of loss over students leaving, I always try to convey three key messages to each student before they go:
1. Music is a gift! Share music as often as possible with those around you. Don't forget how much you can bless others with your talents!
2. No matter what challenges you may face, musically, or otherwise, have fun playing the violin (or any other instrument for that matter); this includes playing pieces and/or genres you love!
3. Never forget how much you have learned about music, discipline, patience and how to respect others! Even if you decide to discontinue music lessons, carry your love and appreciation for music with you wherever you go!
It is my intention to communicate these things to my students throughout all the lessons I teach, but most of the time I may not explicitly say these "key messages." So, today, as I was saying these guiding words, I realized--I should say these words more often during lessons, instead of waiting for the "goodbyes."
"If you think of something, do it."
-Dr. Suzuki, Nurtured by Love, p.83
As I "power-walk" back to the house adjacent to the Montessori preschool, I think to myself, "I am so busy, but I never feel like I'm getting anything done." Every Tuesday, I come to the home of the owner and operator of a Montessori school to teach ten of the preschoolers how to play the violin. Her home neighbors the school, and I teach each of the students individually and in a group setting. I actually teach all ten preschoolers in one day; this includes walking the students back and forth from the school to the teacher's home as many as twelve times. Sometimes I feel like all of this "busy-ness" is meaningless!
Although, I enjoy and appreciate teaching those preschoolers, my teaching at the Montessori school is a great example of how truly busy my life is; I feel that my Tuesdays at the school are just a snapshot of the chaos that is my life. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching and being involved in several activities, but I hate feeling unproductive. So, lately, I have been asking myself the question, "How can I stay just as busy, yet feel productive?" Inevitably, the first order of business is to define the words "busy" and "productive."
Here's what Webster's Dictionary had to say about the word "busy":
1. Engaged in action; being in use.
2. Full of activity.
3. Foolishly or intrusively active.
Take a second look at the third definition given; this is in reference to the word "meddling" or "meddlesome." Upon discovering this connection, I was almost ashamed that, in the past, I had used the word "busy" so often; however, my eyes were opened to the fact that I can be "full of activity," yet be "foolishly or intrusively active."
Now, here's how Webster's Dictionary defines the word "productive":
1. Have the quality or power of producing especially in abundance.
2. Effective in bringing about.
3. Yielding results, benefits or profits.
4. Yielding or devoted to the satisfaction of wants or the creation of utilities.
Now this is a word I would love to be used in conjunction with my name! However, when I simply look at these definitions, I feel overwhelmed! My brain spins with the question: "How can I, Meghan King, live these definitions?"
Let's begin with the mind. Our minds are the most powerful tool we have in our possession--they are at our command. When we tell ourselves to do something with our bodies or to think something in our brains, we do it in such a small amount of time, that it is nearly immeasurable. Yet, why is it so difficult for us to control our minds with daily tasks or creating habits? You would think that with all of this power in our grasp, it would be easy to create new habits! The key here is focus. In order to reign in the power we possess, we must encourage our minds to focus. This means making lists of things to do and goals we would like to achieve. Next, below each item "to do" or goal, write down a task you need to complete in order to check that item off the list or achieve the goal. In some cases there may be many tasks you must complete in order to achieve a goal, however, start with first things first, then add more to the list as you check the initial tasks you identified off.
"Baby steps" are also helpful in this process. For those of us who haven't seen the movie "What About Bob?" starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, "baby steps" are in reference to setting small, attainable goals that you are certain you can achieve and be successful in, in order to reach your larger goal. Bill Murray's character, Bob, helps illustrate this concept quite well as he says the words "baby steps" in conjunction with his small goal; for example, Bob, who has a phobia of public transportation, yet desperately wants to see his therapist, Dr. Leo Marvin, that can only be reached through the use of public transportation, says to himself, "Baby steps onto the bus," and proceeds to step onto the bus. You see, Bob is not focusing on how overwhelming the journey to see his therapist will be, but rather, on the small goal of getting on the bus. How does this illustration apply to music you ask? Dr. Suzuki set small, attainable goals for his students throughout even their private lessons to illustrate how one student could enter the lesson with a larger goal that they were struggling and feeling overwhelmed with, yet leave the lesson with the larger goal either achieved or much closer to being achieved.
Then, there's attitude. Once, I read the saying, "Attitude is the crayon that colors your world." I am not sure who coined such a phrase, but they must know the significance of attitude in motivating you to act and do certain things. When I compare the way color and stroke effect the impression and tone of a painting and the way my attitude and outlook on life sets the tone for how effective I am in setting and achieving my goals, I am taken aback at how negative and pessimistic I am when setting out to obtain my goals and live a productive life. Try asking yourself some of these questions when you are looking at a piece of music that is challenging or recital program you feel overwhelmed by:
"How do I feel about this music? Does it make me happy or sad?"
"If I were to convert my feelings into color, what color would best describe the feelings I have about this performance or piece of music?"
"Do I believe that my goal is attainable? Have I surrounded myself with people that will both, have a positive influence on me, and encourage me, in order to propel me towards my goal?"
"Do I believe that I can focus?"
Please answer honestly. You are answering to yourself, and you need to be honest to yourself before you can make any headway on your journey to your goal(s). I have made reference to "music specific" challenges in these questions, however, you can fill in the blank with whatever you are facing in life--relationships, etc.
Lastly, there is action. Go out there with focus and a good attitude, and you'll be amazed at how productive you become!
Although, I wish I could take back all those times I used the word "busy" as an excuse, all I have is today to make the word "productive" a part of my everyday life and vocabulary. :)
Step #1: Realization
When diving into the New Year, I thought about how "stuck" I seem, like my feet are clinging to edge, too scared to jump, like my palms are sweaty with doubt and fear and thought, "Where did I go wrong?" Oh, how I wanted to reconfigure my life so that I could feel like I was plunging forward once again, feel life's cool waters rushing past my skin, to feel like I was speedin towards my goals. Currently, I'm an intern for the Artistic Department at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, as well as, a violin teacher for Allegro Music Classes (also located in Indianapolis). So, you might ask: What part of meeting and working with famous musicians, teaching violin to and learning from children, and not having to go to school every day do you not like?!? The answer is that I love it all! However, I have realized how ineffectively I have positioned myself physically, emotionally and spiritually on a daily basis.
Step #2: Reconstruction
This is the question at large: When and where do I begin? We will all choose how to manage and answer this question differently. To answer the former: I know that I must say that I need to begin now! My journey through life doesn't stop because I turn my back on it or because I stop living and enjoying it; I know, in my gut, that I have to begin now, or I'll never begin. The more I procrastinate beginning to enjoy every moment of life, the more I'll lose, and the more I'll want those parts of my life back later. To answer the latter: For me, I believe I need to begin my journey at the corner of music and playing the violin. While analyzing my daily life at the beginning of 2012, I made a discovery that a key part of my life was missing; so, like a historian, I began to dig and search, to wipe away the dust from my former styles of life sitting in the closets of my memory, and there it was! It wasn't very dusty and it wasn't very old, but it was right in front of me the whole time! The difference between my lifestyle before I graduated and my life now, is primarily that my the former was a life filled with violin! Practicing, rehearsals, listening to recordings and studying scores took up most of my time and now there is left only remnants of that life. Although, I pull my violin out on occasion for myself, it is not a daily task. I find it challenging to muster the energy and motivation to pull it out on most days, not to mention making the time and the concentration to spend working on scales, arpeggios, and solo works. Now, I am reconfiguring! If my focus could include practicing and performing on the violin and truly listening and analyzing classical works, I believe that my ambitions, goals and overall desire for music will boost my morale.
Step #3: Respect
Somehow, I think I wanted to get caught up in life's troubles and normality; but the truth is, I've taken that path for a short time, I suppose to see what it was like, and while it was interesting and different than my former lifestyles, it is not one I wish to return to. When you lay the cards down and see them for what they truly are, you see that as much energy as you may spend towards changing who you are, you could spend all the more energy towards growing the person that is already inside you. Maybe I was fighting my former lifestyle, maybe I thought that, even though, down deep inside, I knew it wouldn't change anything, that this new lifestyle would make me happier than the older one had. Now I know that I was wrong. To get back on track: First, I must respect myself, by not blaming and beating up myself emotionally for taking this "side road," but respecting and appreciating the time that I took off and moving forward with what time I do have. Second, I need to respect my goals; this includes, but is not limited to, striving to reach a goal and sticking with it. I am not vowing to never take another path again, to not be flexible with changes I can not help in life, or to never feel that "burnt out" again, but I am vowing to continue to make music a part of my every day life.
When you think of the phrase, "start from scratch," what do you think of? Maybe you think about all of the files you lost on a computer or some other electronic device, or maybe you think of your grandmother's famous homemade bread. Either way, this three-word phrase can have both good and bad connotations.
In my case, it is both good...and bad. Recently, I moved to my favorite state--Indiana. While this move was exciting--a new, beautiful environment in which to live, teach and perform--it was also scary. Not only, did not have many friends here, but musically, I was beginning from "square one," again. Before my move to Indiana, I was studying at The University of Memphis for four years. During those four years, I attempted to make contacts and get my name out there when I could. It wasn't until my last and senior year in Memphis, that I finally was able to get a job teaching Suzuki violin at a church nearby. Fast forwarding to the present, I have been worried over these last few months since graduating and moving to Indiana, that I would have to start "from scratch" all over again.
Thanks to my teaching experience and a little business help from my family, I have actually had a more successful time getting my name out there for the world to see! Also, I have recently taken on an artisitic internship at The Indianapolis Symphony, and I love it!
Although, starting from "ground zero" can be tough at times, over these last few months, I have learned that we should take advantage of these rare moments in life where we have an incredible opportunity to "start from scratch," begin again and see what we can improve from our last opportunity.
My goals for this blog are, to spread the message of music, to share musical ideas, to exchange tools for practicing and performing, and to make the most of this opportunity to start this blog "from scratch."
I live Carmel, Indiana. I have been married to my very supportive and loving husband, James Matthew King, for four years. The most important things to me are God, my family and friends. I am a violinist and violin instructor by profession; currently, I teach for three music programs, perform for weddings and with various orchestras around Indy, attend graduate school at Butler University, and work as the GA for the Butler Symphony Orchestra. My favorite color is purple and my favorite animal is the elephant.