“What if we got you a new instrument?” my mother asked.
I had originally traveled to the small violin shop that December evening to look for a new bow, after being advised that it was necessary. A new violin had been the farthest thing from my mind.
My mother continued, “I just have a feeling the person who loaned us the violin might take it back.” I loosened the bow in my hands and set it back on the suede-covered table and tentatively picked up another.
Violin had been my life for the past five years.
Daily practice, weekly lessons, orchestra rehearsals and chamber music.
A lifelong curiosity had turned into my deepest passion, the truest way to
Photo by Ian Esplenexpress feelings that if I tried to put into words, I could barely scrape the surface.
The violin I had been using was built in 1930s Germany. The varnish was hazelnut brown, but in certain lighting it looked darker. The way it sounded was incredible. A smaller voice, but it was lush and deep. On the lower registers I pushed to hear its secrets, asking to open up to me, and it did. The violin had seen the years, the top worn down with a few chips and cracks.
It belonged to a friend of my mother, who had loaned me the violin four years ago in case the rental I had been using needed repair. Eventually, after calling to return the violin (to no avail) and a restoration, it was mine.
I named it Janine, after my favorite violinist Janine Jansen.
“It was the relationship, the seamless merge of emotion and instrument, that I was fearful of losing. Janine had seen the deepest caverns of my soul, she knew how to unravel feelings within that I couldn’t express through any other medium.”
– Cameron PerrierJanine was with me through my best and my worst. She was there for my first acceptance into a conservatory orchestra. She was witness to my musical growth and we forged an intimate relationship. She fit so well in my hands.
Everything synchronized when we played together. We were a team.
Janine and I share a bond that many musicians have with their instruments. World-renowned violinist, Sarah Chang said in an email that her priceless Guarneri del Gesu violin is, “my voice when I’m onstage. I feel that it’s almost an attachment of my own body.”
That’s why it was so odd when my mother proposed a new instrument. It made sense, having reached a level where a high quality instrument was necessary. It had never crossed my mind that I would need a new violin right now.
But as I tucked Janine into her case, I knew our days together would be numbered.
I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find another violin capable of satisfying my musical needs. I knew there were better instruments, and it would be an upgrade.
But it was the relationship, the seamless merge of emotion and instrument that I was fearful of losing. Janine had seen the deepest caverns of my soul, she knew how to unravel feelings within that I couldn’t express through any other medium.
A new instrument would be a stranger.
After much thought, I went back to the shop to see violins in my price range. As 10 violins were laid before me, I noted their features, the maker and the year. Old instruments typically sound better but new instruments have the most potential to change their sound over time.
There was a way of knowing if an instrument fit.
If it was a “no,” I knew right away.
A “maybe,” required a couple lines of music or different articulations to decide. If I was still unsure, I would take a violin home for a week.
It was difficult to find an instrument comparable to how Janine sounded or felt. The process was disheartening, having so much difficulty finding a violin that I would like.
I was on the ninth violin when I found it.
It was the appearance alone that first caught my eye, the rich terracotta brown varnish that reminded me of Florentine shingles. The details of the antique finishing on the two year-old instrument left me in awe.
The tone was resonant and smooth. As I played the instrument for the first time its subtle nuances and angelic overtones struck a chord.
In an instant I knew that that was it.
With a new instrument, the possibilities of unraveling its mysteries are endless, and it’s all mine. No one before me has known how this violin sounds on this or that note, or the deep vibrations in the hollow wooden body. This violin will be my new partner for many years.
I named it Lady Florence, because of the varnish. When we play together a new musical mystery is unraveled. Her secrets are a constant source of motivation for me, my primary reason to improve my abilities.
But every few weeks I take Janine from her case and we play for hour or two. Each note she makes now reminds me of going back to an old lover, so familiar and full of memories.