A Heartwarming Autobiographical Confessional Story of Personal Growth and the Overcoming of Fierce Obstacles and Adversity against Overwhelming Odds on the Path to Artistic Glory and Fame beyond Imagining
The effective confessional autobiography is something few people can pull off convincingly. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk–do jokes diminish it? Does a tone of humility make it sound false? Is there too much self-importance in it to be effective? But whatever the consequence, which may involve people typing “fail” onto a computer somewhere, I think I’m gonna have to attempt a little bit of it. Because in a few days (at least a week ago, by the time this sees the light of computer screens across the internet), my first viola teacher will be 100 years old, and the reaching of an age one can, without grammar-fascist reprisal, type in numeral form (instead of spelling it out in words) is a pretty significant event.
The natural impulse in describing one’s childhood, I think, is probably to begin with a description of the hometown. But I’m discarding that straight away as being too Garrison Keillory. Suffice to say that I now live in Los Angeles, in an apartment with an infant shrieking from the next apartment over, and I used to live in Montana, where most of the shrieking was coming out of my chosen instrument. When I was ten years old, I was lucky enough to live in a place where the school system had a decent orchestra program. My ten-year-old brain immediately sensed that orchestral musicianship was the most obvious route to worldwide fame and riches beyond imagining, free cocktails at exclusive parties thrown by the cultural elite, and food that didn’t come from a microwave oven, so naturally I signed up. I had to choose an instrument, and after hearing Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, I decided to choose the ginger stepchild of the orchestra–the one that even the bassists and tuba players had jokes about. It wasn’t just that I was uncool enough to be in the orchestra; I picked arguably the uncoolest of all the instruments in it. Not even uncool enough to be cool: the viola sprints through uncool, races past cool, and arrives solidly back at uncool again.
But whatever! At ten, my thumb-thick tortoiseshell glasses and favorite pink polo shirt were more than enough to ensure my place in the Pantheon of Uncool. No point in worrying about the subtle gradations. We’re talking about ART here, not reality-show stardom. So with my status affirmed as a social and musical pariah, I needed a teacher. (more…)