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Ideas on Learning

Serving people who are hungry for music

My most memorable meals have been when I was really hungry. I can still recall the dinner I ate when I was 20 after an 8-day backpack. I was so hungry that after I finished the meal, I ordered the same thing again.

I’ve had more expensive dinners since, but none tasted more delicious and was received more gratefully than that one.

Music satisfies our emotional appetite in a very similar way.

I have played music for people that are hungry for music. The sense of enjoyment and connection and clear desire to be right where they are at that moment is communicated in smiles and, occasionally, tears.

And there are also people who have no particular hunger for the music. A lack of appetite points their attention to other things — the technique, the phrasing, the acoustics, how it compares to other performances.

I played for many of these people when I was younger. They were easily found at recitals and competitions where lots of other violinists waited their turn to play.

Playing for people who are hungry for music is a true joy. But a good violinist needs more than just a receptive audience.

The violinist needs to know what and how much to 'serve up'. Over the years, I have misread my audience's appetite. I served folks an entrée when a snack was what was needed.

Knowing when to play a short jig for a friend (or audience), instead of a concerto, is a good life skill for any musician.

As a teacher, I try to help my students experience the pleasure that comes from serving people just the right amount of the ideal music for that moment.


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