You Can't Cram Viola

I've had an odd sort of day. I woke up and was exceedingly productive, checking off item after item on my "get done before school starts again" list (already being a week overdue, it was time to get things done!), enjoying my coffee, and listening to music. I paid bills and answered myriad emails, uploaded syllabi to Blackboard, and did bowings for the upcoming MSO concert. Finally at 1 PM I broke for "breakfast," which really was lunch, and then I started practicing.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm in surprisingly good playing shape for the start of the year, as I have a recital in a few days. Generally it takes me a few weeks to get my chops back into working order after summer vacation, but having had a rather uneventful summer, I kept practicing and am in good shape. One of my students wants to learn the Brahms f minor sonata, which I haven't played since 2005. I told him I'd best go over the fingerings and bowings in my part before I lend it to him to reference, and did so today. I was pleased with my ability to rather deftly get through a difficult work I haven't touched in ten years. I even updated a few fingering and bowing choices, and cleaned up the part a bit.

I then sight read a few of the Fuchs Character Etudes that another of my students wants to play, and looked at a few pieces from Brazil. Then I did some "actual practice," (i.e. work on my recital repertoire!), and finally at around 4:30 decided to get some exercise.

I rode my bike to the public library to return a book, and then to the BSU gym to go rock climbing. As many of you know, I love to rock climb. It's an incredible work out, and is a lot of fun. My good friend introduced me to it while I was still a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, and in the past years I've tried to keep up my skills. But one of the problems with Muncie is that it is rather flat. There isn't anywhere to go climbing on real rocks (the closest area is the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, a good 4 hour drive away), and the climbing community isn't as tight knit here as it was at UNT. Despite this, I content myself with the Ball Wall. It's a good wall, and the staff are friendly. I've even made a few friends there. But I didn't climb all summer, so I'm in bad shape.

I got on a few easy/moderate routes and found my lack of upper body strength frustrating and exhausting. I wasn't having a good climbing day at all. I kept falling on routes I would have been able to ascend without any problems a few months ago. In musical terms, it was like being able to play Hindemith and Brahms sonatas, and now not being able to sight read nor even problem solve something in Suzuki book 3.

I left the Wall feeling dejected, riding home slowly. I kept thinking about my climbing experience today, and how I'd gone to the Wall excited to get back on the horse. My experience there wasn't fun at all. It was frustrating and embarrassing, and I'm sad about having lost skills that I used to have.

As I say to my students, "you can't cram viola," and it's clearly true for climbing too. Instead of letting myself stay defeated, I'll get back on the Wall in a few days, and start working my way through the kinks. I know what I was once capable of achieving, and though it'll probably take a while to get there, at least I can have fun in the process of increasing my skills now that I've gotten the initial frustration and embarrassment out. It's back to basics for this out of shape climber!

Happy practicing!