Practicing the violin and mental health

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” With practicing, you harness the power and energy needed to launch the moonshot of your music career. But your mental state is important too. I remember the summer of 1969 when the first human beings walked on the moon. It was one of the most magical times of my childhood.

The image on this card is meant to ignite the spirit, energy and excitement violinists experience when working on new repertoire, trying a new instrument, or preparing for a new performing opportunity. This kind of energy is highly motivating. Hours are spent practicing over sustained periods of time, feeling as though no time has passed. Life is on a constant high.

Inevitably, at some point the energy simmers down. Your life becomes more normal but hopefully still with a sense of pursuing happiness. When the energy lowers, it can feel as though something has been lost. Life energy has a natural cycle of highs and lows. It is important to remember this.

But what to do if the energy isn’t there at all? It may be a good time for a deep dive into why you are not feeling inspired. It could be as simple as needing to take a break for a while, tending to other aspects of your life including home and relationships. If you feel chronically lost, you may need to seek counseling or try meditative arts such as yoga.

I have found in my own life that spending so much time on one thing, in my case violin playing, obscures other interests. I love to travel, go on adventures, study ancient history, and explore spiritual and religious beliefs. I love being an explorer. Even though these interests are not directly connected to my music, pursuing them gets my creative juices flowing.

Early in the 20th century and possibly even before, there was a model of violin study that involved cutting everything else out one’s life to focus solely on violin playing. The early part of the 20th century is significant if you look at it in terms of events in Europe at that time.

Many of the teachers I came across in my conservatory years in the 1980’s and 90’s were of an age and from countries led by oppressive dictatorial regimes. Unfortunately this history of oppression may have rubbed off on their teaching practices and in particular, the way they interacted with students.

During my time in music school, I met at least one violin professor who notoriously mistreated young, vulnerable violinists. Mind you, there was no Me too movement, no recognition of the mind, body, spirit connection, and no sense that at least to some degree, monitoring a student’s mental health was the school’s responsibility.

Practicing is your vehicle for success on your instrument but your mental health is more important. Think of all the people with all of their different skills that were needed to put human beings on the moon in 1969. For your moonshot, you will not only need to practice but you will also need to gather a team of individuals with highly specialized skills. First and foremost, you need to foster your own happiness in life.

Here are some suggestions for your emotional support team:
Friends for moral support and reality checks
Peers and colleagues with whom to navigate auditions and concerts
Teachers and mentors for honing your skills and amassing sage advice
Trusted luthiers for making your violin sound beautiful

Counselors, chiropractors and massage therapists can be added to this list as well. But most of all, you will need the confidence that the music, love and inspiration is within you. Just like Dorothy and the ruby slippers, you already have the answers. All you need to do is reveal within yourself your own creative authenticity

The Inspiration for Violinists card deck
This “Moonshot” card is part of a 50 card deck. Every card has a unique image and text inspiring musicianship, mindfulness and spirituality.

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