Most of us violinists (as well as violists, cellists and bassists) are our most comfortable in an orchestra setting. Of course, the music is fantastic, and usually very challenging to learn and play. But learn and play we do, after woodshedding our parts carefully at home. Our teachers have been able to impart their technical and musical know-how to allow us to learn difficult pieces on our own. We take those skills, now finely honed, to the concert hall, where we deeply breathe in the joy of a beautiful performance, in amazing rhythm with our colleagues. If we’re lucky, our family and friends in the audience will enjoy our performance as much as we do.
Last month, writing for SHAR’s blog series, “The Lives of Artists . . . In Their Own Words”, Formosa Quartet violinist Jasmine Lin explained that being open to an unclear future is what enabled four individuals to coalesce into one ensemble fifteen years ago. Trusting their own intuitions, and each other’s, has allowed them to continually renew themselves artistically, engaging deeply with their audience in the process.
But sometimes a change is needed. Artists are explorers at heart, and since they trust their own intuitions, they develop the courage to venture out. This is not the same as fearlessness. It’s quite the opposite: It’s venturing into the unknown despite their fear. For violinist Rebecca Fischer, that meant giving up something that she still loves and that still brings her joy, as her beloved Chiara Quartet lovingly disbands after 25 years together. As Rebecca passionately puts it in her blog article, “What I want to do in this next stage of my life is both clear and completely open to me.” And that’s how “The Afield” was born . . .
“Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness.” - Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark
Artists know all about refinement. This is a large part of what we do every day, constantly retooling our craft, whether it is bouncing a bow on the string just the right way or getting the lighting to work beautifully on a portrait. The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of refinement for this purpose is: “the improvement or clarification of something by the making of small changes.” As important as minute, delicate changes are to perfecting a skill for artists, the kind of refinement Willa Cather suggests is far larger and more complex. I read her statement as addressing a more holistic honing, the refinement process of which helps us to become more authentically ourselves in the world.