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Violin Playin' Ain't for Sissies by  Rhiannon Schmitt

After a grueling, bloody battle, it is now the climactic moment of truth. Our handsome hero hangs powerlessly off the sharp edge of a dusty cliff face by one clutching hand. Gravel is falling down past him and he shudders to think he could be next to succumb to that horrible fate. Tumbleweed blows past as his clawed grip weakens, his arm is desperate to yield to the immense pain searing through his arm. He can hear a vulture in the distance, death looming with every gasping breath he takes. Just then the dark villain appears standing above him, a smug grin oozing from his scarred face, and he mercilessly plunges a dagger into our hero's grasping arm and cruelly twists it in the muscle. Oh the pain and anguish! What a tragic end!

But wait! Startlingly our hero musters every ounce of strength in his being to remove the blade with his free hand and hurl it at the chest of the evil villain. The hero smoothly ducks as the villain falls past to a smooshy death. Triumphantly our hero pulls himself over the cliff edge and back to safety. He mounts his steed and rides off as the golden sun sets over the mountains.

Cue applause.

Change just a couple details, like the dusty cliff and the hero being male, and that almost exactly describes my recent episode with a mosquito.

I was playing violin in a formal Victorian-style house concert. A difficult movement from "Siete Canciones Populares Espaņol" by Manuel de Falla had reached a pinnacle, the painfully delicate and difficult ending. The last note, one single note, is held for an eternity, getting softer and softer, decaying under the candlelight. My bow complained from exhaustion, at any moment about to plummet from the string to the stage but I controlled it with expertise and conviction. Gently, gently, I thought as I watched the bow hairs exhaust themselves, hardly any bow left and another 14 seconds to play.

Can it be done?

I heard a man in the front row stir in his seat and a moth banged against the smokey window pane when the horrible, blistering pain struck! Scorching fire seemed to consume the blood from my veins. Moments later another stabbing just inches above the first laceration, then another, and another! Dread hit me in a wave as I realized my piece was about to suffer an early end: 5 beats premature death!

Just then truth struck and I remembered that we violinists are a long line of tough, gritty survivalists. We've braved the rotten tomatoes and the "cat gut" jokes, not to mention learning to play such a backbreakingly difficult instrument in a world of critics. Fingers frozen, we haul our gear through wicked sleet and snow to attend weekly rehearsals for no pay. When the humidity gets tough, the tuning gets tougher. Just like the leather-faced lawmen of the old west, the prima donna in the taffeta designer dress always wins and this size 9 wasn't about to let that mosquito take over my concert, dammit.

Somehow I summoned the fortitude to hang at that last diminishing note. The piece was over. I gracefully removed the violin from under my chin and skillfully swatted the disgusting bloodsucker off my right shoulder blade without making a smudge. It fell to the floor and I squished it with the heel of my boot. Victorious applause ensued as I curtsied and rubbed the red welts gently, a painful reminder of my foe.

Aside from the attack the concert was a smashing success, no pun intended. I summoned my last ounces of strength to perform the remainder of the program to my loyal audience. Like a crowd after a gunfight, the witnesses returned to their homes to share the gristly tale of survival. As soon as the candles were extinguished I took a moment in the shadows to examine the hideous scar that would mark me forever, or at least for the next week or so.

My narrowed eyes shifted to the little squashed blip on the hemlock floor. It was so tiny and benign smeared into the floor wax like that, a sad victim of its need to consume. She and I had both shed blood in the fight. I was lucky to come out with a scar. She lost her life. That's the way the west is, ruthless and cruel. It ain't pretty. You've gotta fight or else you'll get eaten alive.

I bowed my head in a moment of silence before I loaded up my fiddle, climbed into my air-conditioned Honda and drove off into the sunset.

*Rhiannon Schmitt (nee Nachbaur) is a professional violinist and music teacher who has enjoyed creative writing for many years.

Rhiannon has worn the hats of businesswoman, events promoter, classical music radio host and school orchestra music arranger in her 29-years of life.

Her business, Fiddleheads Violin School & Shop, has won several distinguished young entrepreneur business awards for her comittment to excellence. Her shop offers beginner to professional level instruments, accessories and supplies. http://www.fiddleheads.ca provides a rich resource of information on her school, products for sale and her many writings.

Rhiannon is Founding President of the Shuswap Violin Society [http://www.violinsociety.ca] She dedicates much of her time to community music projects and helping young musicians in financial need.

Rhiannon currently writes music columns for two BC publications and has been featured in Australia's "Music Teacher Magazine." Writing allows her to be a creative "smart-ass" and to teach people that the world of music is as fun as you spin it to be.

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