The Communicator

The Communicator

The Communicator

A Love-Hate Relationship

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Disappointment flashed across my teacher’s face when I couldn’t remember the next note. Time stood still as I tried to remember what came next and avoid my teacher’s eyes. It never worked. Her eyes always found mine, and in those moments, I wanted to curl up and hide and pretend like it never happened. I felt embarrassed that my fingers couldn’t move to the right spot after practicing all week to get it right. 

As a 5-year-old, receiving that feeling from a teacher I looked up to hurt my self-esteem and confidence. It made me realize how much I value others’ opinions.

I was invested in the violin from a young age. I would be in the same basement of my violin teacher’s house every week. I started to dread those lessons because I feared my teacher would say I didn’t do enough. 

I spent hours practicing how to hold a violin under my chin, how to position my feet and how my fingers wrapped around the bow. Most importantly, I learned how to listen to myself. She would make me repeat a piece so many times that I would become bored, but it still wasn’t good enough for her. 

It felt like it never was. I always felt like it was my fault, like I didn’t do enough and the lesson was a waste. It never occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t my fault until later in my life. 

When I finally switched violin teachers, I felt more free, but the fear of ‘messing up’ stayed with me. The feelings of embarrassment soon turned into disappointment for myself, and that turned into more pressure on myself. Even today, I still worry to the point where I’m sweating because I’m scared that it won’t be perfect. But I’ve learned that music isn’t something I can perfect.

One turning point in my musical journey that taught me perfection shouldn’t be a goal was during a recital. We were in a church, and I wore a white top and a black skirt. I knew the piece by heart, but there was one section that would always trip me up. If I got the first note of the section right, I was set. 

By the time of the concert, I was confident I’d nail it. But when that section came, I stood up there blankly and didn’t play a note. I panicked. The silence grew louder as everyone waited to hear another note. My fingers couldn’t think. Holding my tears in, I stopped my piece there and sped-walked over to my mom.

My mom snuck me out so she could calm me down. I was full-on crying by that point. My chest heaved and my breathing was unsteady. Her encouraging words helped me get back up on the stage at the end of the concert to play my piece again. I didn’t want to do it. I would have rather left the church and not talk to anyone. I felt like a disappointment. To myself, my mom and my teacher. How could I not remember the piece? I had prepared so much for that moment but couldn’t pull through. 

Looking back, I’m proud of myself for going up a second time and finishing my piece. I played to see my mom smile and her face glow. In the moment, I would’ve felt more joy and a sense of relief if I had played it right the first time. But because I wasn’t ‘perfect,’ I have the memory of that vivid recital. It was a sunny day, and I was excited. My mom and dad sat on the left side towards the back. I remember the people: my teacher, her daughter and the other students I looked up to. I remembered what the church looked like: the steps that we took to enter, the intricate wooden door leading into the church and the little bench that my mom calmed me down at.

That experience taught me that music isn’t flawless. It’s something that is played for enjoyment. I can look at a piece of paper with black lines and circles and read a whole new language. I can perform it in a way that hasn’t been played before, emphasizing certain notes and phrases based on my liking. I can read the music and make it louder or softer. I can change the tone of the music so that it expresses my thoughts and feelings.

Over the years, practicing an instrument has become more and more of a solitary activity.  Sometimes practicing is more of a chore — a responsibility like my homework is. Because I’m alone, it can be hard to convince myself to practice and block out time in my schedule. 

However, practicing alone has allowed me to explore and experiment with different ways I can play the piece. It’s a way to get away from school and stress. I can get lost in the rich sounds of my violin that echo warmth and melancholy as I fall into my own world. 

Playing an instrument stimulates my brain differently than other activities. It makes me use different ideas and knowledge that’s not just memorizing, but more trying out new fingerings or patterns and applying techniques to change the feel of the music. 

It shows me what independence can look like: learning tools that can help me now or in the future, making decisions based on my opinions and having the confidence to start over, whether it’s relearning a piece or restarting an article.

Playing the violin has taught me patience and concentration. I learned these skills from the very beginning as I would constantly get frustrated with myself. Practicing takes concentration and commitment to push through the hard days. 

Having a task I repeatedly come back to has allowed me to create strong habits. As an elementary schooler, it was difficult to stay engaged for long periods. But slowly building up my mental endurance and concentration over time has let me use those skills to focus for longer times and avoid burnout. 

Above all, the violin has influenced and shaped many aspects of my life. It’s a large part of who I am. Time will always move forward, it doesn’t stop. It’s always best to try and play the next note and continue with no hesitations.

Music has been with me my whole life. Every experience I’ve had with the violin has impacted the way I play, my thoughts, the way I carry myself and the way I express myself. I will always need and enjoy others’ help, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to do things on my own. My musical journey has not ended yet. I may have created a first note, maybe a first page, but I haven’t composed an ending yet.

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About the Contributor
Janaki Nallamothu, Journalist
Janaki Nallamothu is a sophomore at CHS. This is her first semester on staff and she's super excited. Outside of school, Janaki loves playing tennis, taking her dog on walks, baking, and playing the violin. Janaki can't wait to start her journalism journey at the Communicator.

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