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This discussion includes members-only video content

First Recital: the longest, scariest 3:41 of my musical journey.

While rummaging through my hard disk recently, I came across this clip and thought I should share.  At the time, I had returned to lessons after about a 16 year "break" and had just finished 5 months of weekly instruction culminating in this annual recital with about 80 people in attendance (fiddle students and families).

For me, it was the one of the most heart pounding, adrenaline pumping activities that I can recall. Fortunately I had practiced quite a bit, which was a good thing because I was completely on "auto-pilot" throughout the performance.  The only things I can recall while playing are thoughts like:
  •     why is my bow bouncing like this, that shouldn't be happening;
  •     this sure is taking a long time, and I'm not even half way through;
  •     now, how does the next tune start;
  •     don't look at the audience or you'll surely crash and burn;
  •     oh, that didn't sound good;
  •     hmm, I wonder why my vision is getting a little blurry;
  •     wow, she's (my fiddle teacher) really picking up the tempo,  hope I can keep up.
How the notes managed to come out at all in that turmoil is beyond me.

Looking back at it from an adult perspective, I can only say that the emotional anxiety that builds up leading to a recital is exceeded by your feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction once it's complete.  I've since started doing the annual recital as a solo with my teacher providing piano accompaniment - yes, all those feelings remain although they do seem to get a bit more manageable each time.

Hope you enjoy!

13 Responses
Posted: February 20, 2012
Last Comment: February 22, 2012

Ian Renshaw
Posted: February 22, 2012
Hi J. David,

Thanks for posting your video - it's really inspiring, and like others have said; I too understand the internal dialogue problem. I've played with my band and in exams seeming cool and in control on the surface, yet in my head I'm having full on shouting matches with myself over every slip, every bow bounce, every failed, creaky double-stop!

You video goes to show that a long break from fiddling hasn't done you much harm at all, if only 5 months' tuition brings you to that standard - such solid rhythms!

Your teacher seems nice too - I like the way she touched your arm at the end; she understands your pain!

Beth, I'm going to try your 'singing' idea... :o)


Posted: February 21, 2012

Gosh - I could have written this entry.  All that head-chatter is exactly what I was doing during my first recital. I was so ashamed of my performance, but the teacher said it was just fine. Funny how this discrepancy happens. Thanks for sharing your video. It is great.


Posted: February 21, 2012
I admire anyone who can get up in front of people and play like you did. Great job! There's nothing quite like fiddle music to put me in a very happy place.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 21, 2012
That's great to know! It helps me too, especially with this recurring intrusive interrupting thought: "Do you really know what comes next?"

Posted: February 21, 2012
Hi all,
Thanks for all the kind and positive comments!!  There was some internal chatter about whether or not to press the submit button or not, but now I'm glad I did!

Regarding the tunes, it's a typical Cape Breton set - kinda Scottish, but as Natalie MacMaster would say "with a little more dirt on it!". The tunes are:
    The Concert March
    Miss Lyall
    George the IV
    The Kings's Reel
Here's a link to the music: http://cbsession.com/pdftunes/06.pdf

Beth, thanks for the tip regarding singing in your head.  I remember that being mentioned in another thread a week or two ago and have started doing it.  It's as close to magic fiddle dust as I've found. Cures all kinds of problems for me: memory, intonation, timing, and now chatter!


Posted: February 21, 2012
Awesome David!

Man if that doesn't get one's foot tapping I don't know what will!

Posted: February 21, 2012
Wow great job :D  I can feel with you, I just played for myself and my dogs so far but I think I will be nervous as hell playing for someone else :/  The tune you are playing is very beautiful, I liked the part from 2:10 most :)

Posted: February 21, 2012
Hi David,

Nice set of tunes!  What were the names - Scottish, right? 


Posted: February 20, 2012


I'm impressed on three counts with your video.

  1. Your intonation, and string crossings was great.
  2. I really liked the internal dialogue you let us in on and this in turn lead to Beth to remind us about singing while playing to help quiet the self critiquer in all of us.

And lastly, I enjoyed how your teacher, when she heard that you were able to keep up with her at the beginning, picked up her pace and you were able to follow suite.  Very cool and good job.  It was a treat to listen to the two of you.



Posted: February 20, 2012

Hi David:

I think the Recital went real GREAT!

I enjoyed both, your thoughts while playing as well as your performance; which evidently, the people in the audience did too.

Thank you for sharing this with us.


Posted: February 20, 2012
Wonderful David !  Thank you for sharing that !

I can so relate to your "bullet" points....lol.  much the same goes through my head as I'm playing.  I'll have to give Beth's suggestion a try as well.  It does amaze me what the brain is capable of coordinating and accomplishing with the rest of your body as your head is swimming in angst and self critique.  lol   and...you certainly do look quite in control despite your inner turmoil !  ;-)

Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 20, 2012
J. David, for someone who was in mental turmoil, you came off seeming connected and totally in control of your performance. It's funny how there is often a huge disparity between what the performer is thinking and feeling, and what the audience and listener is perceiving. 

You can't shut off that part of the brain that "chatters" when adrenaline is coursing through the body.  My best trick (and I think it's a good one) is to "sing" my part mentally while I'm playing. The mental activity of singing uses a lot of brain energy shoving the chatter to the background. Plus it helps with focus,  memory and intonation. You're hearing and anticipating an "ideal" version of what you're playing nanoseconds before you play it. Try it next time. Thanks for sharing this video!

Posted: February 20, 2012
OOHHH, great job!!! I loved watching that. You sounded great.  I also loved your little bulleted comments in your paragraph. You're funny!