As soon as I started reading “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, I was hooked. This non-fiction account of Campbell’s nutrition research uses scientific data to prove that simple dietary changes are the way to decrease the overwhelming number of diseases plaguing Americans.

The namesake of the book is a long-term research project in which Campbell took part, showing how members of Chinese villages who ate fewer animal products had smaller chances of getting cancer, and other diseases.

Despite my immediate fascination with Campbell’s scientific justifications for adopting a vegan lifestyle, I was unable to finish the book before my deadline. So, instead, I will share my reason for letting you down this week and write a complete review of “The China Study” next week.

Now, as my usual blog readers will know, I have been playing violin for 13 years. (For more details, read my past Musical Musings posts.) And, for the last two weeks, I took part in the Sacramento Youth Symphony’s Summer Chamber Music Workshop, spending the majority of my day playing.

During the first week I was a mentor for younger students in the preparatory program—I assisted in teaching a technique class, coached two chamber groups and played in their orchestra. After all that, I rehearsed with the other mentors and coaches and then went home to practice some more.

The second week consisted of many more rehearsals and classes, though I was more student than teacher then.

In addition, I performed in nine concerts over the two-week period, soloing in Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” and playing the first violin part in a movement of a Mendelssohn quintet.

In the end, I spent much more time playing each day of the workshop than I had on any other day of the year.

But, even though I noticed a definite improvement in my ability, the real triumph of the program was that I finally got my violin hickey! (If this sounds weird to you, please read “It’s so lonely being the only one without a hickey!” before passing judgement.)

More significantly, though, my experiences over the last two weeks instilled in me a renewed love of music. With all the distractions of junior year, I had fallen into the habit of viewing violin as a time-sucking chore rather than a pleasure. The workshop forced me to remember what it feels like to play because I want to rather than because I have to.

While I did spend a lot of time in rehearsals, the sessions were so engaging that they seemed too short.

I also came to appreciate the anxiety that comes with performances and learned how to use it to my advantage.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated performing. Each concert or audition comes with intense dread—I become freezing cold, sweat like crazy and get intense stomach pains. Over the years I’ve learned to deal with the symptoms of my apprehension, bringing sweatshirts and handkerchiefs to all my recitals and being sure not to eat immediately before a production.

But with so many concerts in such a short period, I didn’t have the opportunity to worry—there wasn’t enough time.

So, in the absence of the butterflies, I was finally able to enjoy the show and relish the chance to share my interpretations.

The only real downside to the workshop was that it pushed my already strained bridge (the small wooden part of any string instrument that holds the strings in place) nearly to the breaking point. Thus, my instrument is currently in the shop, giving me a much-needed break.

My only fear is that my hickey will vanish again!

 

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