My brother and I ended up playing the viola in the primary school orchestra. We never took a viola lesson, but our teacher would transpose all music from alto to treble clef so that we can play it like a violin. I remember in a Christmas performance at school, the viola parts didn’t have to come in till later in the piece, but when it came time for the viola entrance, I couldn’t get into playing position quick enough and started late. I still do stupid things like that today.
I did not play in the school orchestra when I entered secondary school (equivalent to grade 7?). I wasn’t really sure why, but it seemed like my violin teacher did not want his students to be involved with the school orchestra. I respected my teacher a lot, so I did what he said. Back then, everyone student who took music lessons would take performance exams through the Royal School of Music, and my teacher was so opposed to the idea that a performance can be quantified in different levels. It certainly made an impact on me, to be careful of numbers of the commercial world. He would play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in the most musical way, and ask us young students, how would we grade his performance?
My teacher did have a student, whose parents would insist on my teacher helping her achieve grade 8 in two years. She was a beginner. She got grade 8 in two years. She sounded…. bad.
Even though I didn’t join the school orchestra, I continued violin lessons, all the way through age 19, until I came to the States for college. I was quite proud that when I was 15, I played the Presto from Bach’s BWV 1001 for my music exam at school, and my music teacher asked me why wasn’t I in the orchestra. He thought I played so well for my exam. I am glad to not be part of the orchestra though, as I was much more into basketball during those years. I would have a whole different group of friends had I played in the school orchestra. I am also glad I kept my violin lessons too (ended up taking 12 years of lessons), as it paved the way for my mandolin playing.
(To be continued in How it all started – 4.)