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  • Margaret

ally: insights and advice

On playing when music isn't the way you make your living:

While I don’t play viola nearly as frequently as I used to, I really cherish the times that I play. It feels weird to go back to a piece I used to play easily and struggle to get through it. However, after an hour or so, I get back in the groove and remember there were parts that challenged me even back in high school. It’s also really fun to play whatever pieces I want without the pressure of auditions or performances coming up. Practicing is definitely crucial, but I think playing an instrument is sort of like riding a bike. Even if life or school gets in the way, I’ll always be able to pick the viola back up and polish my skills. Music never really leaves you!

Getting through rough patches, and what they can bring you:

The hardest thing about learning an instrument was that middle part when I was about 11-14 years old. I understood the basics of violin and knew how to play. However, I wasn’t great. The pieces were getting more challenging, and it took longer to learn new music. To be blunt, music didn’t feel fun anymore. I think what motivated me to continue was that I genuinely liked playing violin but was just frustrated by the slow improvement. Margaret really helped me out of this rough patch when I was in high school. She gave me a hands-on role in selecting music to learn, which made the process more fun. She also helped me understand that learning an instrument isn’t about fast results. Taking your time learning a piece is extremely rewarding and fun in its own way.

What you’d say to someone in high school trying to balance getting good grades, having a social life, and practicing their instrument:

Balancing practicing with other life responsibilities was definitely a challenge. I always tried to treat practicing as if it were a homework assignment. It has to get done and if you plan in advance, you can make a schedule that works for you. I’d recommend establishing when you’re going to practice early on each week, deciding what time you’ll practice each day. If you wait until the day-of to plan your practicing, it might get pushed aside. Writing down a practice schedule can also help you hold yourself accountable.

What you'd say to someone starting out:

Be patient with yourself! Learning an instrument is a long and challenging process but that’s what makes improvement so exciting and rewarding. Don’t expect overnight results but stay positive and celebrate all your victories no matter how small. Also, performances are a big deal! Take pride in what you’ve accomplished and treat yourself afterwards!

Final words of encouragement:

Learning violin and viola was difficult. There were many times when I just didn’t feel like practicing or thought my skills would never improve. Despite these setbacks, learning music was also extremely rewarding. It allowed me to meet new people, push my abilities, and feel a sense of personal achievement. Learning violin and viola was worthwhile because I genuinely enjoyed the pieces I was playing.


Jan 11

Ally, it so good to hear what you have been doing. Your answers are thoughtful, encouraging and lovely. I'm happy to read that you are still playing your viola. I wish you luck and happiness.


Jan 11

These are lovely reassuring reminders that I think can really apply to pursuing any skill or goal, especially one without an external timeline or prespecified path.

All the best of luck to you, Ally, as you continue law school-- you seem like such a thoughtful, grounded person.


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