Many of you have enjoyed following my niece’s violin career at NYU.
The other week, she gave her final recital.
I once heard a story from a professional violinist about the dedication it takes to consistently perform at a high level. A typical musician practices 8 hours a day. 8 hours. This violinist said, “If I miss one day of practice, I will know it. If I miss a second day, the musicians on either side of me will know it. If I miss a third day, the audience will know it.”
Ann attended Interlochen Center for the Arts, a special boarding school, for the last two years of high school. She then studied for four years at NYU. The hours of practice must reach into the thousands by now.
While extraordinarily talented, Ann is unpretentious, almost shy about the possession of this great gift. She always seems genuinely surprised that anyone would come to hear her play. I’ve attended many concerts over the years but my favorites are the impromptu performances she gives during family holidays. She often plays in her pajamas and I’m sitting close enough to watch her intricate fingering. The sound of the violin fills the room and music floods every sense. I can’t quite explain it, but you can feel each individual note. It’s mesmerizing.
Ann played for many years with an elite violin academy in Chicago. My brother-in-law would make the long drives between South Bend and Chicago, sometimes multiple times per week. Often, they would stay overnight with us. I treasured these visits and our little routine. Upon walking into our home, she went immediately to our bedroom and placed her violin case up high on the dresser. And then she came back downstairs in search of some homemade macaroni and cheese.
The Betty Haig Academy gave an annual concert at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. These concerts were first class as were the uniforms. Ann wore a crisp white dress accented with a red sash. The look was completed with white knee high socks and black Mary Janes.
At this concert, the hardest pieces were played first. Only a handful of the older students had mastered the most challenging repertoire. But as the pieces decreased in challenge, more students joined the group. By the end, there were children as young as five on the stage. And, all together, from the newest students to the instructors, everyone played the final piece. As the strains of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star filled the hall, the audience often laughed. It was precious.
Ann once met Joshua Bell, the great American violin soloist and Grammy winning artist, while attending a concert at this very same venue. Afterwards, Ann approached him and asked for an autograph. He asked if she played violin and she responded with the number of years studied. He said, “Well, maybe one day, you too will have a chance to play in Chicago’s Symphony Hall.” She answered him honestly, “I already have.”
It ain’t bragging if you’ve done it.
Ann’s final concert was held on April 30 in New York. A new gown was purchased. Hair and makeup, professionally done. Draped across her shoulders, a special coat from her 96-year old grandmother who was unable to attend. I imagine Ann was nervous while riding in a cab to the venue. She wanted the night to be perfect. For her friends and family. For her parents. For herself.
I have no idea how many hours of preparation went into this final concert. Complex pieces by Beethoven, Elger, Grieg, and Shostakovich. Ann will tell you that this wasn’t her best performance as her violin kept slipping out of tune. Regardless, she impressed all in attendance.
My sister told me a sweet story. At the beginning of the concert, Karen closed her eyes and immediately pictured a little Ann. With a tiny violin. Standing alone on a big stage.
But as the tears came flooding, she had to open her eyes. Too many memories over a long journey.
I wish I could have been in the audience to hear it live. But I am grateful for this video. Enjoy this final recital celebrating years of practice and study.
After the concert, my aunt and uncle hosted a fabulous reception at their home in Manhattan.
When the party ended, the young people were ready to hit the town. Ann wanted to walk around Times Square. And who could blame her. When you look like a million bucks, you may as well celebrate into the wee hours of the night. In the city that never sleeps.
Ann has had a marvelous career and she graduated last week from NYU. The ceremony was held in Yankee Stadium and Taylor Swift was the commencement speaker.
But let’s be honest. The real achievement isn’t just that she can play at an elite level.
But that she can do it while wearing that amazing pair of shoes.