I don’t know about you, but I was always more interested in school when I wasn’t in the classroom. So I didn’t hesitate when my 4th grade teacher announced it was time for us to line up to head to the school’s theater. An introduction to the strings, brasses, and winds was planned for us that day, but I was simply happy to be going for a short walk and heading to a less familiar place, even if it was still on school grounds.
Passing through the classroom doorway, shifting from the room full of desks and bookshelves into the hard-floored, metal-locker lined hallway, was plenty to ignite my senses. I could hear the bouncing sound of other classes heading to the same location, and see the sunlight from the distant double-door exit windows reflecting on the same surfaces. I imagine my classmates and I were probably chatting on the way about the latest Goosebumps novel we were reading, and likely bragging about how many from the series we had collected ourselves.
After funneling into the theater, joining the other 4th and 5th grade students, and sliding into rows and plopping down onto thinly cushioned seats, the teachers settled us in and the program began. Ms. Munson was her name, and she began by sharing some music on a little wooden box called the violin. She drew a stick over the strings and a sustaining tone filled the room. After playing a few simple ditties, she placed it down and did the same with the viola and the cello. Now that we had reached the 4th grade, she said, we had the option of learning one of these stringed instruments. Ms. Munson went on to show the instruments available to the 5th graders: the brasses, winds, and percussion. Something about that violin struck me though. I don’t know why, but I went home that evening and asked my parents if I could take up the violin. Fortunately, even though my parents were not instrumentalists themselves, they supported my interest. So, the violin rentals began. Being within ear range of a beginning violinist can be quite straining, so I feel quite lucky that my parents, and any other care takers that were around my practicing, were able to put up with it. So that’s what I did. I practiced, practiced, and practiced.
I successfully progressed on the violin, and in 5th grade, my parents thought I might want to take additional lessons outside of the school’s violin class to help prepare me for an upcoming school music program. These private lessons took place at a shady looking music store in town, with a large messy front counter, dusty songbooks, and a variety of mostly guitar and drum-like instruments along the dirty white walls. I imagine if my parents weren't new to town, they'd have chosen a different place. Practice rooms were in the dark hallway in the back with cheap flooring and walls. Turns out, the shop wasn't such a bad place after all. Little did I know, I’d be spending much time at this shop over the next several years! This funky shop is where I met an outstanding violin teacher that I would study with for the next 3 years, until sadly he moved out of town. My teacher, John, even introduced me to the mandolin. My parents jumped on the idea of me playing the mandolin and surprised me with one of these odd stringed instruments the following holiday. It was a foreign object to me, though, and I hardly touched it until years later. I had plenty keeping me busy just on the violin alone. John had me not only working on school music, but additional etudes for nerve-racking concerts called “recitals”.
The upcoming school holiday music that I was preparing featured me playing Silent Night...alone! The ensemble arrangement of Jingle Bells hit the last note and the applause rose, then withered away. Ms. Munson gave me a nod, and as if I knew what I was doing I stepped out of my chair and up to the front of the stage. I could feel the eyes following me. I settled on a spot, took a breath, raised my bow, and a sustaining tone filled the room. There, in the very theater I was sitting in a year ago, I was now on stage sharing my first violin solo.
Back at school, I was a happy camper. Periodically throughout the week, a few kids and I would be excused from class to join Ms. Munson. I’d slide out of my desk, pick up my violin case, and head out the door. I don’t know about you, but I was always more interested in school when I wasn’t in the classroom. I was simply happy to be going for a short walk and heading to a less familiar place.
Madeline Fendrick and Brian Peck
We're happy to share with you stories from our journey as artists. Stories from the road, and stories from our home base in Stoughton, WI.
Logo Art by:
Robert Peck (Brian's Dad)
Cover Photos by: