Ask Kelsey: Being A Violinist

Being a violinist

A fun little tidbit to share here today! I’ve been a violinist my entire life, but I keep it quite separate from my online blogging world. Mostly for my own sanity, haha. It’s fun to share some things and it’s fun to keep other things in a different container.

But I thought I’d share just a bit about my background as a violinist, if you’re interested to know… 

Being A Violinist

I started playing when I was 6, almost 7. Apparently I asked my mom if I could start playing much earlier (she says 3?) but she wasn’t ready to commit to helping a 3 year old learn. (Ha, I don’t blame her!) So I started lessons later. 

It was fun for me and I always enjoyed it! I continued playing and practicing and enjoyed the direct correlation between the minutes practiced and the improvement I heard and saw. It’s a delayed gratification for sure, but playing an instrument is a really fun way to see how the effort you put into something often = the results you get. 

I joined the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra when I was 9 and played with them for 9 years! Again, it was fun to see how my effort created results. We had 3-4 concerts each year, and for each one there would be a “seating audition” to determine where you sat in the orchestra. The better you played in the audition, the closer you were to the front. (The dream was always to sit Concertmaster – first chair of first violins – or Principle Second – first chair of second violins.)

Being a violinist

And then…I just never stopped. I played in college and I got my undergraduate degree in violin performance, and then I auditioned for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and was accepted. 

Honestly one of the BIGGEST shocks and coolest years of my life! I got to play a concert with Yo-Yo Ma and learn from members of the Chicago Symphony and perform at Symphony Hall.

Being a violinist

I loved hopping on the L with my violin strapped to my back, on my way to evening rehearsals or weekend gigs.  

I knew I didn’t want to live in coooold Chicago long term.

But I really felt my heart calling me closer to my family and to home. And I just knew that wherever I went to grad school is where I would likely end up living for a while (which is exactly what happened) and I turned down my Chicago music school options… Instead, I found a school in Texas where I wanted to study (Butler School of Music at UT) and did my Masters in Violin Performance there.

Being a violinist

And then…I worked as a violinist for all of my twenties! I was the orchestra director at a private school here in Austin. I played every gig you can imagine, from big stadium shows with Michael Bublé to weekend weddings to SXSW showcases and playing with a band at ACL fest. I did my Suzuki certification for Suzuki books 1-5 and opened a teaching studio. About 25 students would come to my home each week for private lessons. I started playing with orchestras around the state of Texas (SO much weekend driving!) and played as a sub for the Austin Symphony (my favorite gig because it was local, ha). They would call me whenever a regular member couldn’t play and I would play the concert series. 

It was all fun! It was perfect for my 20s. 

It was also clear that this career wasn’t for the next chapter of life. 

I got pregnant with Milo, and it became pretty clear that my life as a violinist, which was mostly evenings and weekends, wasn’t going to be sustainable for my next decade of life. I still kept my teaching studio and performance gigs, but it was really killing me. I hadn’t fully created a plan for the next chapter, but I sensed that something would need to shift. 

And then the pandemic hit us, Nate’s accident happened, and the universe VERY clearly told me it was time to wrap things up. It was not in the way I wanted it to happen, but it was also so apparent that there were no other options available for me. I closed my studio abruptly so I could take care of Nate full time while he was in and out of surgery and care for my newborn baby Milo, and all performance gigs were canceled for the next 12 months or so because of the pandemic. 

I mean…it was a very quick and sudden shock. We all have ways that 2020 totally rocked our world. I’ve shared lots of aspects about Nate’s accident, but I’ve never shared in detail how it totally derailed my career and brought it all to a screeching halt. It was something I knew would need to happen down the road, but it wasn’t done in a way that I loved. 

BUT… 

The beautiful thing about all of it is that it directed my life into a new, beautiful direction. During those years when my violin career was halted, my little blogging business began to pick up momentum. I’m so thankful that this is what I do now. Truly. I love it every day, and it fits into my life as a mom in whatever way I tell it to fit. 

And I still get to play my violin! I’m still a sub for the ASO (I played Tchaik 4 for the season opener last week) and I truly love and miss teaching. I’m sure it’s something I’ll incorporate into my life at some point. 

PS: another Ask Kelsey post

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Lauren
Lauren
1 month ago

This is so cool! I’ve followed you for years and I knew you played the violin, but I didn’t know to what extent. I’d love to see a video of you playing!

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