I’ve given myself one year to master the violin.

As an adult beginner, I should be playing Twinkle Twinkle; instead, I'm playing Paganini's 24th caprice.

The Piece

Some might say that I should begin with playing, say, Mary had a Little Lamb.  Here is the music:

Instead, let’s breeze right through the easy stuff.  Here’s what I’ll be playing:

No problem, right?


Vaughn vs Violin

Now let me make one thing clear.  I’m not totally new to the violin.  By totally new I mean when I was in 5th grade I played violin for 6 months and I played for two months from October through November 2009.

Some of you are thinking that means you’re totally new to the violin and that’s fine; I’m just being honest.  So, with whatever amount of experience I have, I’m going to play the Paganini Caprice no. 24 in one year.

Can this be done?  Before you make a sudden judgement, you have to know that along with everything against me:  I’m 30 years old with 8 months of total violin experience, I haven’t played anything more difficult than Happy Birthday, and the violin is really hard, there is one thing going for me.  My teacher.

She also happens to be my wife, and a pretty decent violinist.  Danielle Belen was the 2008 Sphinx competition winner and she’s soloed with the Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Nashville and San Francisco Symphonies, the Boston Pops, and the Florida and Cleveland Orchestras.  So she can play, but can she teach?  She is currently on faculty at the Colburn School as the teaching assistant to master violin teacher Robert Lipsett.  She also has a high level studio of about 12 budding virtuosos of her own.

Wait, wait.  I’m not trying to impress you with some name dropping there (were you impressed?) I merely wanted to demonstrate that I have a chance.  Perhaps not a great chance, but a good chance to play caprice no. 24 in one year.  At what level will I play it?  We can probably all agree that if I can perform a serviceable, recognizable caprice at the intended tempo, that will be a victory.

Let’s think of this as an experiment.  Can we take someone with very little violin experience, give him world class instruction, and be able to perform an extremely difficult piece at a reasonable level in one year?

We’ll find out.