In my lesson yesterday, I realized I was relaxing and becoming more comfortable playing in front of my teacher. It might seem strange, but I did not consider the performance aspect of taking up the violin before I did so. But now, every week I stand in front of a great violin player and play my violin. I’m not a particularly shy person, but the first couple of times I know I was tentative – my playing is that of a beginner and I can’t deny having a bit of self-consciousness about it. Yesterday, I warmed up for about 20 minutes before she arrived. I think I’ll stick with that for a while!
Also yesterday, I was taking a karate class with a couple of teens. Part of our karate is a Kiai!, or yell of spirit. It’s a loud vocalization powered by an exhalation of the breath timed with a technique like a block or a kick. My karate teacher was having us work on it, for good reason. Many beginners struggle to produce a mighty sound – it takes timing and practice. Many kids transitioning into adulthood also struggle to produce a mighty sound, even if they have been training for a long time. I was training with one of each.
The beginner teen was a 15 year old young woman who often takes a class I teach, so I know that she really just struggles to coordinate the timing of the voice with the technique and the breath – self-consciousness is not too much of a factor for her. I bet that in another year her Kiai! will roar. The other is a junior black belt adolescent. He has been training for probably six years, and I have known him all the while. When younger, he had a fine young warrior’s Kiai!, but now, in the tween years, he’s gone inside himself like so many do. He’s a wonderful, polite young man, but he’s virtually lost his Kiai!
Last night Michael, my partner, and I were sitting on the couch re-watching a charming British film called “Little Voice” – it’s the story of a young woman who is constantly demeaned by her mother, and she seeks refuge in the old crooners – Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Shirley Bassey and the like. In private, she is able to reproduce their vocal talent with remarkable accuracy, belting it out like a diva. But when she speaks to others, she can barely muster a squeaky yes or no. By the end of the movie, of course, LV (Little Voice, she’s called) finds her voice.
Finding a voice is my wish for all. In addition to karate, I teach self-defense workshops and intensive courses, and we talk a lot about using our voices to prevent conflict by setting boundaries for ourselves. People ask me if I have ever used my karate, and I say yes, all the time – speaking up for myself and others has become much easier for me over the past decade! That’s not what they mean, of course, but it’s what I mean. I’m having tons of fun adding my violin, squeaks and all, to my “vocal” arsenal.
Thanks for reading.