My musical “greatest hits” list

What were the most cherished moments in my life that were made possible by music?

Here is my current brainstorming:

– playing all the great big “warhorse” symphonies with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (mostly sight-reading, since I’d never played them until that point), and being part of that big sound

– performing Tchaikovsky violin concerto in Moscow (my pressure-filled moment) and feeling it appreciated

– watching from backstage as my own students performed their first time onstage at Orchestra Hall

– putting a group of friends from junior high school (3 other violinists plus a cellist) together to play Pachelbel Canon in the middle of our shopping mall at the holidays, as part of our Salvation Army bell-ringing campaign for National Junior Honor Society (and seeing a large crowd gather to listen…and drop dollars into our red bucket)

– teaching my first “See Saw” student during the summer after freshman year of college. The 3-year-old student (named Lisa) said nothing to me for 4 or 5 lessons…and then finally smiled after the 6th week!

– soloing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a second-year medical student, with the Campus Symphony Orchestra, conducted by a fellow Harvard alum…and having my junior-high school orchestra conductor, Mr. Price, drive up from Libertyville to see me perform

– hearing for the first time the sound of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” performed by a group of my own students, whose families I had introduced to the violin…actually every time I hear this I have the same reaction of wonder and joy and nostalgia and respect, all wrapped up together

– meeting my best friend in Cleveland as a result of our being two of the only “young” people at our first rehearsal of the Heights Chamber Orchestra, a community orchestra in the Cleveland suburbs…she later introduced me to the yoga community there and is a dear friend for life

– experiencing, at the ages of 10 and 11, the level of preparation for an international piano competition…one of these was during the same summer that I traveled to Italy to perform violin on concert tour. Seeing families that had driven across the country in a van with a piano bolted in the back allowed me to recognize that there is no limit to people’s ability to dedicate themselves to something, and that it is a personal choice how to balance one’s life and priorities. I placed in both of those competitions (yes, the girl with the piano in the back of her van did win), and more importantly, I got to learn cool pieces like Debussy’s “Jardins sous la pluie” and Bach’s fugues from the English and French Suites.

– being able to play a comforting melody on my violin for my 51-year-old neighbor, Nellie, in Cleveland, as she lay nearly comatose in a hospital bed in her living room during the last days of her life.

– meeting the Head Coach of Stanford Rowing while rehearsing my students for their performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” for the Stanford Open gymnastics meet…To be able to discuss the parallels between high-performance athletic training and violin is one of the inspiring parts of my current professional life.

– playing under the unique energy and inspiration of some great orchestral conductors in my life…I learned what a huge difference a conductor can make in creating the sound of a group of musicians, and what a privilege it was to have had the exposure to some really good ones in my life (ie, to know what “good” is).

– being able to organize a 30th anniversary alumni reunion party to honor my violin teacher and to attempt to show her the broad reach and impact that she has made with her life’s work


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