Violin at risk: quitting or preserving?


I have decided to quit my weekly violin lessons, after nine years. This is a daunting prospect, but it feels like it’s time. I’m burnt out; I simply can’t continue to make time for it, keep up on the material, week after week. Years back, I’d assumed that having a child move on from elementary to middle school, and later, onto high school, meant my own time would grow freer. For years, I’ve been waiting for things to get easier, calmer, during which time I’d get to relax more into making music.

It ain’t happening.

My intention is not to quit playing the violin. It’s simply to withdraw the “must do” angle that helped me in my earlier years of practice, but now strikes me as a mean, prune-faced authoritarian whose words and stance make me want to fight back, or mutter “wanna make me?” or basically, because I am by nature a relatively polite and well-behaved creature, feel like all the joy, curiosity and creative impulse have been leached from the experience.

My teacher and I are parting on good terms, and she’s invited me to come in from time to time, to touch base, go over issues I might be having with my own efforts. I have no ambition to push myself further technically—in truth, that’s what has made me hit a wall over the past two years. Something in me wants, instead, to regress a few years, and play the tunes that were just darned fun to play. No high positions on the violin, no tricky bowing, although, oddly, I enjoy challenging, syncopated rhythms. I’ve developed an unexpected affinity for the music of 20th century composers Bartók and Hindemith. I found the “Bartók 44 Duets” book just prior to my decision to end lessons. This book will go on my solo journey with me. (No, this is not an oxymoron; you can play solo duets by recording one voice.)

I’m nervous, though. This could be a terrible mistake. What if not taking lessons leads to not practicing at all, which leads to not playing at all? I so don’t want that to be the case.


Fear of letting go of what is no longer working—oddly, or maybe not, this very thing came up time and time again during my recent silent retreat.

Why is it so hard to let go of a treasured precept or habit, even after you’ve recognized it no longer serves you? If you’ve ever encountered this feeling, you’ll know that it runs deep, very deep. Even the prospect of changing things unleashes a gremlin that is determined to not let go, not let you go. It can make your insides quake with fear. Oh, how tightly we cling to our attachments, our habits, even when they start causing us more harm than good. Letting go of something, or observing my reaction to the prospect, is at the core of my meditation practice these days. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Then again. We grow from the discomfort in our lives. Comfort, ironically, is where we stagnate, even lose our way, which is a shame because comfort feels so damned good. So cling-worthy.

But I digress.

Tomorrow is my last planned violin lesson. After that, it’s up to me, to listen to self, know when to take a break, when to push myself. When to enjoy the silence and when to seek out the music.

Wish me luck, reader.


PS: In a wonderfully serendipitous way, there’s a member who started a discussion on her own decision to step back from learning and focus on just enjoying learned music. Oh, glory be – I’m not alone! Here’s the link if you, too, are cheered by this kind of discussion:

3 thoughts on “Violin at risk: quitting or preserving?”

  1. I see what you mean. I made a similar decision some time ago. Somehow, it is scary. But on the other hand this is something we as non-professionals can do. We do not play the violin or dance to be able to pay our rent. We can take a break. This is a kind of freedom professional artists do not always have. I wish you luck (I secretly hope you will go back to your classes one day, but how knows? Maybe next year you’ll be a bandoneon-playing “tanguera”.)


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