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The Long Path to the Devil's Instrument - Part 3

Posted by Phoeniceus on Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Fiddle Appears

Ten years after I graduated from college, I decided to go to Peace Corps. By this time, I had been living in Madison, WI for several years, and I had many, many friends in the folk dance/music community. I lived in a big old house with four other single men and women, and we used to host monthly sing-alongs (oh if my fourth grade music teacher could have seen it). I was calling dances and playing guitar weekly in a contra dance band. But something was missing from my life and my music and I wanted a change.

I organized a party to give away all my possessions that wer not going with me or staying in storage. I wrote a last will and testament, and some thirty-odd people gathered to hear it read and collect their loot, including several instruments-of-the-week that I had failed to learn (recorder, penny whistle, harmonica, etc.). It was funny, and sad, and sweet. After reading and dispersal, a friend of mine, a woman who had picked up the fiddle in her thirties and with whom I had weekly played New England tunes for a couple of years, stood up and announced, "We took up a collection, and we have something for you too."

It was a fiddle.

It took me several minutes before I could speak, because I did not want to cry. It was beautiful dark amber color, brand new without a beauty mark on the varnish, but it already sounded so sweet. I have since been told I could easily sell it for hundreds, because although it is a "beginner's" fiddle, it is the top end of what anyone would call a "beginner's fiddle."

For the five months I spent in Africa, I noodled with it every day, and then returned home to America, a failure at both overseas development and the fiddle. I simply couldn't get anywhere with it.

I took classical lessons for nine months, and at the end of it, although I had a better idea of how one held a fiddle and a bow and where the notes were, I knew I did not want to become a classical player.

And then I put it aside. I had no one to teach me, and I simply felt too old and discouraged to pick up an avocation that would take years to bear fruit. Every once in a while I would get ambitious and take it out and scratch out a tune, but when I did not get instant results, I put it away again, distracted by dance and guitar and other pasttimes that I was already good at. I could not look at my fiddle without feeling guilty, and I could not part with it. It was too precious. I knew that one day, I would either have to get serious about it, or give it away to someone else.

1 comment on “The Long Path to the Devil's Instrument - Part 3”

brya31 Says:
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 @2:07:34 PM

Ok dern it, you have drawn me in with your three blogs How did you finally learn to become a fiddler?

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