Monday, March 12, 2007

Playing in "Public"

I work occasionally at a string instrument store and was there the other day when a man came in to try out some bows. An adult violin student, he was self-conscious about playing in the "public" environment of the shop. I reassured him, gave him a cozy spot to play in our back room (more like a hallway, only visually separate from the main room), and selected four bows for him to try out while I attended to other customers.

He did well, playing for memory many pieces from Suzuki books 1 and 2, and I smiled when one of the customers in the main room (a beginning fiddler) applauded him, even though it meant he would realize that we could hear him quite well.

Earlier, when I was alone in the shop, I was tuning and playing the cellos, and I quickly stopped when a customer came in--not just to help the customer, but because I, too, am self-conscious. You just never know whether the listener is a professional player, a rank amateur, or the parent of a five-year-old virtuoso who can play better than you can.

But, it really shouldn't matter, should it? Maybe on the concert stage, but not when we are trying out bows. Or cellos.


Guanaco said...

It shouldn't matter, but it does...

When I visited my local violin shop several weeks ago I showed up early (first thing) in hopes of avoiding having to inflict my pitiful abilities on any other customers.

As it turned out, no one else did come in, but by the time I started trying new bows, I was so intent on hearing the differences between them that I forgot about my inadequacies, briefly.

cellodonna said...

Same here, there's a feeling of intimidation when displaying my "skills" in public. Although once I got into trying out bows a few weeks ago I became oblivious to my surroundings.

You work at a string shop! Sounds lovely. My DREAM is that a string shop will open up here in town (fat chance, based on the demand and considering the high rents for shop owners around here) and that I could just walk in for a visit now and then and try out cellos and bows, or maybe work there part time. Dream on ...

Maricello said...

Maybe when we play a new instrument or bow, our basic self-consciousness is heightened. The other night, I tried a friend's cello. I felt very exposed, even though I was amongst friends with whom I play regularly, and they were talking, not even listening to me. I found the A and D strings difficult, and just couldn't play it.

Yes, Donna, it is fun working in a string shop! I think it is hard for string shops to survive. Ours is a branch location of a larger store, Johnson String Instrument, which also sells on the Internet. Most of the small music stores and many of the big ones seem to have been absorbed by the Internet. I hope we can keep this one going. Visit us if you're ever on Cape Cod! My cello teacher is the store manager, so it is, I think, unique: a cello-oriented string store.

cellodonna said...

Oh yes... I know Johnson String Instruments. I have their catalog. I see in the front there's a picture of the Cape Cod store.

Actually, there's a music bag in that catalog that I'm planning to order because it's large enough to hold the oversized orchestra folder which doesn't fit in the music pocket of my cello case.