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.

While waiting for Obama

The country is in a bit of a funk today.  The US’s credit rating dropped, as did the stock market, and 31 navy SEALS died over the weekend.  Not a great way to start a week.

Still, I pressed forward with violin practice, but as it went on, my thoughts more and more drifted to world events, so I turned on my computer to read the latest.  MSN’s homepage had a red banner running along the top:  Obama to address the nation…  So I clicked the link and there was an empty podium with murmurs from an unseen crowd that had apparently formed for the occasion and waited for the president as patiently as I did.  Of course, with my violin in hand, I naturally had something to do while I waited.  With my mind mostly on the upcoming speech, I practiced the most simple thing (besides a scale) that I cover, which is of course the theme.  I played through the theme a few times and I noticed something interesting happening.  I grabbed my video camera.  Take a look:

What did you notice, besides the relatively low quality of my playing and the chit chat of the peanut gallery waiting for Mr. President?  Besides a quick peak during that shift to third position, I look straight forward at my computer screen (it looks like I’m looking at the camera, but the camera was sitting on my computer), and not at the violin at all!  I looked at neither the strings nor my fingers, but at the computer.  I’m actually pretty happy about that; not only did I think I could never be able to do that, but I have always been amazed when I’ve seen musicians do that in the past.  Of course, I tried the blindfold approach with a few of the other things that I play, but none came out anywhere near decent.  I suppose to play without looking sort of requires extreme familiarity with the piece, which I can only claim to even come close to with the theme.

And as for the president’s speech?  I’m not an economist (or a politician), so I’m not going to go spouting my opinions about deficit spending or the influence of speculation or Congress or whatever, but I just want to make one small point about education:  I hope that education doesn’t suffer as we approach another possible recession or worse.

I didn’t start this blog to make a statement about anything.  To be honest, I envisioned this blog to be me attempting to do the impossible, getting continually wrecked by Paganini, and having all of my wonderful viewers laughing at my expense.  Maybe I would play something at the end and maybe I wouldn’t, but either way, I was going to try as hard as I could during the journey.  As the blog has gone on though, an interesting thing happened:  I’m actually somewhat good at playing the violin.  I really didn’t expect this, although it’s a fortunate side effect because a blog about nothing more than me playing badly each and every time seems now to be incredibly short-sighted.  The fact that I’ve gone from zero to where I am now in five months speaks encouragingly to my prospects of actually playing the whole thing in seven months.

Of course, I’m not there yet, so I’ll wait to break open the champagne.  But the fact that it might actually happen speaks volumes to the power of desire on attaining something.  As far as education goes, it seems like we need the means (government not cutting education across the board) AND desire (people actually wanting to be educated (parents encouraging their children) and taking the measures to use the education system to get an education, ie actually going to class and studying hard, etc).

So perhaps this is just my ignorance talking, but if we were an extremely educated society, how poor could we really be?  Even if the “economy” tanked, if we as a society know how to heal the sick, build bridges, manufacture goods, perform needed services, put out fires, fight crime, whatever else we would need to do, isn’t that what’s important?  Isn’t that how capitalism works?  But in order to actually have a capitalism and have this invisible hand thing working, doesn’t everyone have to be educated enough to actually be able to do whatever they want to do with their lives?

To be honest, I don’t think that I truly understand how money in this country works, so maybe the solution really is buried somewhere in the world of investors, “creating jobs,” interest rates, and that thing called a derivative market.  So I don’t have an economic solution, and even if I thought I did, I’m certainly smart enough not to bring it up on my violin blog, but the fact that kindergarteners may not be introduced to classical music and community college students may have their engineering classes cut in order to pay for the mistakes of a bunch of bankers and politicians to me is just sad.

10 Comments on “While waiting for Obama”

  1. Kirstin Peltz says:

    Ah Ryan, where do I start? First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You have reached a milestone in your playing: letting your fingers do what they do while you are focused on something else. Of course this should not be your normal way of practicing, but what is clear is that you are enjoying it. Your brain wouldn’t retain (much less your fingers’ muscle memory) anything if it didn’t matter to you.

    As for the dilemma of our republic, let’s pray for each one of us to care a little more about education – and the ideals of our forefathers.

    Keep up the good work!

    • rrvaughn says:

      Hey Kirstin,
      Yeah, playing while looking at the computer was quite a trip. I’m probably (probably 😉 not going to spend hours developing this manner of playing, but you’re right; it’s cool to just be able to do it. And some more good news is that it makes me love the violin that much more, assuming “love” is a word I would use on such a frustrating contraption!

  2. Rudy says:

    Congratulations on your eye’s ahead ability and especially on the final paragraph of your post. In all the clamor to become “debt free”, I’ve yet to hear anyone make any distinction in what we are in debt for. It’s as though they can’t see the difference in making your kid a loan to go to med school versus making a loan to support his gambling habit. The first we need a lot more of, the second we should cancel immediately.

    • rrvaughn says:

      Hey Rudy,
      I agree. There’s always talk about long term debt reduction and long term economic growth, etc. The best thing for the long term, by far, has to be the investment in an educated population. Not to say that investment means money alone; in many ways we need a culture change to a society that inherently values education as a top priority.

  3. B.Rajkumar says:

    Yes Ryan,

    It was very nice to see you playing so confidently. I fully agree with you in the role of will power in achieving something. Your progress is really exemplary and I hope it will inspire all violin students.

    Regarding the economy of the U.S.A., you have our best wishes from all Indians.

  4. Mary says:

    Congrats on your milestone! Now the fun really begins, eh?

    As for the economic situation – I am so mad I can’t even begin to talk about it. An educated populace is a huge obstacle to the kind of sleight of hand we’ve been seeing in the financial sector, so I doubt funding will increase until The People stand up and say, “no more!”

  5. JRV says:

    Well, RRV, you’ve got my tears going at your words. If a writer makes me laugh and/or makes me cry, that means he gets one to either think or feel — or both — I’m with you on the education; oh, if the enthusiasm was just half of what you exercise each time you publish a blog entry … next time I see you we’re having champagne.


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