IFR blog > Instrument blogs > Strings blog > The fear of mediocrity

The fear of mediocrity

For violinists, ever since we were children we have been hearing about the talent of Mozart, who was already composing at ten years old, and of many other violin prodigies who stood out at a very young age. We have also had to hear a thousand times that we have chosen a very difficult instrument and that it will take a long time to learn to play it well.

It seems that the only worthy future for a violinist is to be a well known soloist, and those who don't achieve that will have to settle for playing in orchestras or giving classes. As the years go by, sooner or later you ask yourself, “If at my age I still haven't composed a masterpiece, then am I mediocre? Is it worth continuing in music?”

My opinion is that music is much more than the recognition that others can give you. It is a practice that makes us grow, that connects us with our own emotions, that gives us pleasure. As long as we are preoccupied with whether we are good or not, this connection is broken. The magic is in the journey, not the destination.

In the teaching of classical music, and especially the violin, the aptitude or innate talent of a person is highly valued and labeled in students from the very beginning: this one has talent, that one doesn't have talent. I think that when we judge a student's talent, we distance ourselves from the essence of music. Everyone is capable of enjoying and feeling music, regardless of his or her level. And as teachers we have to transmit this passion to each one of our students.

Yehudi Menuhin in his book Life Class says, ”In my opinion a child's first encounter with music should be such that it awakens and stimulates his fantasy, his feelings, his dreams and perhaps his ambition. (...) Above all it should ignite something so inextinguishable, so alive and so intangible that through it, something begins to move toward a high, almost unreachable goal. (...) In the West we know very little about music as training of the consciousness, as is the custom in certain oriental cultures, in Yoga or Zen.”

I think that for our well being and for that of our students, we have to live music as something much greater and more elevated than a simple technical skill. We shouldn't focus on what others think of us or the level of skill that we have, but rather to look for approval within ourselves. Mediocrity does not exist; we construct it ourselves.

Do whatever you do with passion; give yourself completely and be happy.