Has anyone else noticed the competitive nature of violinists? It seems that we can’t resist the urge to peek into each other’s musical progress and ask (or try to find out using more stealthy methods) what piece our colleagues are currently learning, what chair they are in orchestra, or how much they are practicing these days. Oh, humanity! Stop the insanity!
It’s human nature to be competitive, and that is what motivates many of us. It’s a good feeling to surpass your friends or colleagues, but it quickly becomes a runaway train that can take over your whole being, and it becomes ugly and unhealthy, so we must monitor it closely, and resist our urges to give into the tendency to compare ourselves with others.
My Suzuki teacher trainer, Ed Kreitman, had the perfect response to shut down these competitive inquiries, and he insisted that the parents of his students responded using the following statement. Suppose Susie’s mom comes up and asks Joey’s mom, “So, what is Joey working on these days?” Mr. Kreitman wants his parents to reply saying, “Joey is working on perfect posture, beautiful tone, and good intonation.” In other words, AREN’T WE ALL STRIVING FOR THE SAME THING? Why do we need to keep tabs on each other!
Apply this same concept if you are a teen-age student or older…if someone asks you prying questions in an attempt to measure up with you, like, “So how much are you practicing these days?” Just say, “Only as much as I have to!” or “As much as it takes to reach my goals!” If they ask, “What are you working on now?” Just say, “Same thing you are—being a better musician.” They’ll get the point…their question was rude, and they won’t dare pursue it.
It’s up to us as violinists and parents to not feed this fire that consumes the spirit of music. Just refrain from asking, and refuse to answer when others ask you. Comparisons don’t matter! Really, I honestly find it rude to ask, sort of like asking how much money someone makes, but it has become acceptable in certain violin circles. Let’s stop it!