This blog is about all things violin. It is meant to educate, inspire, and provide resources for parents, teachers, and students.
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Cami J. Shaskin graduated with her master's degree in Music Education in 2008. Violin has always been her primary instrument, since beginning private lessons at age five. See camishaskinviolin.com/info for her music résumé, or click on Spotlights for historical recordings. Cami has enjoyed an array of experiences in writing,
from penning award-winning articles as a journalism staff writer in high school, tutoring peers at BYU's Writing Center, earning a Writing Fellows scholarship and a minor in
Language and Computers, and later becoming a published author. She recently picked up web programming as a hobby, earning a certificate in Web Programming and Development
from the local community college. This blog has been a collaborative effort between her and her husband, who is a Web Developer by profession. Together, they designed and
coded this blog and its original content "from scratch."
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Craig Jessop, former director of the Tabernacle Choir, was well-known in the organization even after he retired, for saying, “People listen with their eyes.” I discovered that to be quite true the other day.
For some context to my observations, I went to high school in the 90’s, back when VHS tapes and video cameras were in vogue, and long before the days of YouTube and smartphones. It’s been over twenty years since I’d seen the performance of my concerto with my high school orchestra. In fact, now that I think about it, it's possible I never saw it before. But I found the old recording about a month ago and had a friend with a technology conversion business transfer it to digital format.
My high school group was a good group. We were good enough to perform a full Tchaikovsky symphony one year and perform at Carnegie Hall. Many people from our orchestra auditioned to perform solos. I auditioned as a junior, and surprisingly to me, I was chosen that year, even though I was playing a relatively rare piece, and the parts for the orchestra had to be ordered from Europe.
I suspected I was good enough. Later that year, I would audition for the Orchestra at Temple Square and make it in, and I served as concertmaster of various groups, both at school and throughout the community, including the Utah All-State Orchestra.
When the winners of the concerto competition were announced, though, I was slightly disappointed. As a teenager influenced by less-than-altruistic considerations, I wanted my moment of glory to be on a more flashy, fun concerto my senior year.
Boy, was I wrong. I look back now and realize the wisdom of my teachers in having me perform my audition piece that year, Bloch’s Nigun from “Baal Shem,” a poignant and heartfelt composition about Jewish suffering. I grew a lot, learning that piece.
Though most of the video wasn’t of good enough quality to even recognize that I’m the one performing, at the moment I saw myself get situated on stage, I saw my face clearly for a few seconds, and was taken aback by what I saw. Even though I had only just walked on stage in the video and hadn’t yet touched my bow to the strings, I paid attention. I recognized so much preparation in my younger self. There was a good deal of maturity, and, dare I venture, humility? . . . qualities I frankly hadn’t thought about or expected! Seeing my facial expressions and body movements as I got into position communicated infinitely more to my adult heart than what I could have expounded on in a doctoral dissertation. I was fascinated.
It was apparent I was ready for my moment that night. To help assuage my nerves and excitement, I probably said a quick private, fervent prayer before the performance. Two decades later, I don’t remember all the details, but knowing who I was back then, I have a pretty good idea. I know I had become at least somewhat aware of the history of the piece, the Jewish culture, and the composer. In those days, we didn’t have Wikipedia. Google was barely invented. We typically relied on the wisdom of others for our history, such as, in my case, my private teacher at the time, Cynthia Richards. As a student, I listened and learned. In those days, I often checked out recordings from the library or bought them at Media Play—a kind of Walmart-sized warehouse stocked full of all kinds of CD’s. I put in the many necessary hours of personal and ensemble practice. And it paid off!
Since that time, I’ve grown in confidence, born of success. I’ll perform at the drop of a hat, sometimes with barely a second thought as to how it will come across, taking for granted that my playing will turn out well. However, watching the long-ago scene unfold a few weeks ago, as I took this trip down memory lane, I felt like I was truly “listening with my eyes,” and my heart was touched. According to one lecturer I saw, Richard Elliott, famed Tabernacle organist, once quipped, “If you’re not at all nervous, you haven’t practiced enough.” I was appropriately nervous back then, and I prepared accordingly. I only hope I’m that prepared on Judgment Day!
Disclaimer: After all of that, because of the low fidelity of the recording, please don’t harbor any high expectations. If you listen, I hope you’ll see what I saw and reflect on the power of music and the power of preparation. But even if you don’t—this will, after all, probably always mean more to me than to anyone else—I hope you reflect on even greater lessons in your own musical journey!
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