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Chapter 1~ "Say it Bronnie!  Say, 'Goodbye Miss Mousy!'" 

Learning to play the fiddle with Carol Ann Wheeler.

Carol Ann Wheeler

Things finally took off for me musically when I began lessons with Carol Ann Wheeler. When I first went for lessons I was painfully shy and terrified of anyone hearing my out of tune notes.  Carol Ann explained that I'd never make music if I played like a mouse.  She would have me play a note as loud as I possibly could, and at the beginning of a lesson she would make me say aloud, "Goodbye Miss Mousy!"  I choked on the words.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.  It was one of the most difficult things I had ever done.  Just to utter that sentence took strength.  It succeeded in the way she hoped though, and I began playing like I meant it. But the most important thing I learned from Carol Ann was this:

"Play each note.  Hear each note.  Slow down to a snail's pace until each and every note is down, and then and only then, gradually bring up your speed."

I've had students who want me to teach them as many tunes as they can learn as quickly as possible so they can jam at sessions and it's a struggle to convince them that this isn't the they type of player they want to be.  Not really.  I learned from Carol Ann that the fiddle can be meditative if you approach practicing in this manner.  You take a bar, maybe not even 8 notes, just four or five notes, and you play it over, and over again until you have it on auto pilot. Then you move to the next set of notes.  I owe her a great debt of gratitude for teaching me everything I know about the discipline required to play an instrument and for teaching me to enjoy that process.  Like education, it is a journey, not a destination.  I often think that the most I enjoyed music was that journey as I tried to master the mechanics of my left hand and my bowing arm.  This discipline was something I took with me later in life when I did other things.  Carol Ann made me want to do whatever I tried to do as well as I possiboy could. Whether it was playing the violin or making a pie.  She had an ability to motivate a student to want to play well.

I think of Carol Ann when I read this quote from composer John Williams - 

"Any working composer or painter or sculptor will tell you that inspiration comes at the eighth hour of labour rather than as a bolt out of the blue. We have to get our vanities and our preconceptions out of the way and do the work in the time allotted."

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