No strings attached.
By Sue Langenberg

I was a lucky enough to be in the audience of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra the other evening. The event did not disappoint what with an ornate surrounding, an animated conductor and accomplished musicians to deliver an enchanting program of classic composers.
It is not the first time that I have been awe-inspired by what happens on any stage. I always figured that I would be a lousy big time critic if they are sweating themselves silly up there to deliver something magic, and I am contributing to National Secretary Spread Day.
But I am inspired nonetheless and wonder how it is that others accomplished these great things in their lives while I entertained zits, failing grades and dysfunctions to boot. While I was at the grocery store buying diapers, others were practicing, practicing, practicing to get to Carnegie Hall. While I gave birth, everyone else must have graduated from Ivy League music schools, not to be confused with Poison Ivy School with No Strings, and went on to promise great things in life. While I cried over spilt milk, everyone else was taking standing ovations.
Forgetting that my lifespan had spun itself into official hagdom, I was nevertheless inspired to wonder if I could start somewhere late in life to do anything. You know, sign up for something, dogged my way through it, then manage to accomplish the oldest hag living to be able to open a violin case without a trip to the chiropractor. So I offered the statement to a few friends the other day, “Is it too late for an old hag to study the violin?” thinking that it probably is.
I got a different answer about positive thinking and encouragement, however, and imagined how it would be to actually show up for string lessons somewhere. Someone offered that a college has some sort of Hag Violin 101 classes. Yeah, right. I would be the first person in music history to take the instrument out of the case and have everyone run for cover. Headlines would be, “Hag terrorizes local community college.”
No thanks. Showing up to study violin in a public place would be too mortifying, what with suspicious glances my way about why I had a carpenter’s saw in my carrying case. Then my chins would cover most of the instrument turning vibratos into jittery Morse Code while the bow would stab the student next to me, that is, the student who already has accomplished great things in life but “just brushing up.” Not to mention the music stand sailing over with a clatter because I accidentally took the buzz saw, I mean the bow and stabbed the pages of music before me.
So maybe a private lesson would be a better choice. I could sneak into the presence of someone feeling sorry for me and buzz saw my way through a session, then wonder why there were sudden For Sale signs up and down the street afterwards.
The main worry about all this late-in-life strings study is exactly how much patience I would have at this stage to accept my own foibles and failures. If I left the symphony and carried a violin case straight to a forgiving teacher, could I actually forget the zits, diapers and crying over spilt milk long enough to think straight?
Probably not, but if there is virtue in virtuosity, it is likely that those marvelous musicians up there began their great accomplishments earlier in life, that is, much before official hagdom sets in to drag them down to size. I love the idea of late study, but for now there are no strings attached.