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Age 12 - Violinist Makes (New) Waves

  When I was in the 8th grade, Mr. Feldman left our system - over a 50-cent-an-hour raise.  This man had great ability with us kids, especially us difficult ones (like me); he had played in Carnegie Hall when he was 6!; & the short-sighted penny-wise/pound-foolish people on the School Board let him get away for a measly 50 cents an hour more pay. 

  But that wasn't the only "duh-uh!" those people did - the man they hired for his replacement was a Wilbur Kent.  From New York City.  Who introduced himself to us kids with these words: "I've come here to the wilds of the back woods from New York City; to teach you little savages culture."  Jeeh - how to allienate your audience in a smooth move!  He instantly had 110 kids as adversaries - me at the forefront.  We Ndns don't take the word "savage" well, usually.

  He followed his introduction with, "I understand that at least some of you are said to have a modicum of talent, according to your previous teacher.  We shall see.  We will have try-outs, beginning immediately." 

  Then he topped it all off by looking pointedly at me & stating, "I understand you are said to have some talent at sight-reading.  So.  We will start with you.  I have here a piece of Bach.  Mature violinists have had considerable difficulty with it.  So now we will see what you can do with it."

  How do we spell "instant hatred"?  But I loved Mr. Feldman's teachings, and I loved the violin, so I got out my fiddle, tuned it, put the music on the stand, & played.  And, like virtually every judge I had ever played for in competition, when I finished, Wilbur Kent leapt to his feet, hammering his hands together, shouting, "Brav-AH!  Brav-AH!!"  Then, after a few seconds, he caught himself, stopped showing emotion or appreciation, cleared his throat & said, "Ah-hem. Well.  You do seem to have some talent!"  (C-Note: I mentally said, "Yeah.  Right.  Twit!"

  He looked at his notes & said,, "It says here you only practice 20 - 30 minutes a day.  We are about to change that.  We will begin by having you practice 4 hours a day, and after 2 weeks, we will increase that to 8 hours a day."  Takoszja, I hated practicing!  Worse, I saw no need to.  I had a Gift; it served us all well; so I wiggled out of practice every time I could.  And in the Ndn Way, we do not bludgeon a Gift; we nurture it.  Practicing 4 - 8 hours a day, every day, is not nurturing - it is bludgeoning.  To bludgeon a Gift is to offend the Great Holy.  So I told him I refused.

  Wilbur Kent got the most incredible dark look on his face..  He stared at me.  He turned various colors.  Then he slowly said, "You... re-fuse??..."  I replied, "It is an offense to the Great Holy to bludgeon a Gift.  I hate practicing; and you would kill my Gift with that much practicing.  I am not a machine.  I play for fun & because I enjoy it.  I will not abuse my Gift.  Certainly because you say so."  Everyone thought he was going to explode. 

  Then he snapped, "Well!  We'll see who's in charge here!  Either you shape up, or you ship out!  Right now!"

  I started packing my violin in its case.  He stared at me, then said, "What! do. you. think. you. are. do-ing??"  I replied, "You gave me an ultimatum.  When you give someone an ultimatum, you give them a choice.  My choice is to ship out."  And I started out of the room.

  Wilbur Kent nearly blew a gasket, he yelled at me, he threatened me, he wheedled me..  and I kept going.  I've never been one to successfully go back over a bridge.  And I knew that if I didn't keep going, he would find a way to force me to ruin my Gift.  So I kept walking.  Saying nothing.

  Over 3/4 of the other kids in the Youth Symphony suddenly packed up & followed me!  Mr. Kent didn't finish the week.  The School Board had me & others in to testify, but they cancelled his contract & sent him back to New York City.  Which left us with no violin teacher & no one to lead the Youth Symphony...  Except for the school system's music teacher, Miss Dorothy Vetter.  But that's a separate tale.

 

 



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