Variations on “Is That a Violin????”
by Lara St John
I have noticed, whilst travelling a few million miles hauling a violin, that carrying an oddly shaped case gives random folks a queer impetus to talk to you about what might be inside it.
Some people love to talk about what they do. I, however, to strangers, do not. Once I tell folks my profession, I often get asked about my day job. Also, a large number of people have a grandchild/godson/cousin who plays the violin/guitar/etc., and while I think it’s terrific that their relative is getting a musical education, I don’t necessarily want to hear all about it in an airport.
Others will tell you about themselves … how they took lessons for years. Inevitably and puzzlingly they will also impress upon you just how very bad they were. I once had a conversation with Josh Bell about this, and he is still perplexed when, after concerts, someone always tells him that they played violin once, “but not as good as you”. It made me wonder if people tell Michael Phelps about their waterwings or Annie Liebowitz about their Viewmasters. I have a hard time imagining meeting Nadia Comeneci and regaling her with stories of my cartwheel attempts as a kid, but somehow music seems to be a medium where failure can be a source of pride.
Over the years, I have experimented in how to avoid the situation entirely. At one point I thought the trick might be to look unapproachable, and asked an art student to paint something reptilian and badass on my case. It turned out like this: