Fiddlershop's "Music is for Everyone" Blog Series: Violinist Louisa Symington-Mills
A Profile of a Career and Family Woman Learning the Violin
Fiddlershop’s "Music is for Everyone" blog series features interviews with professional, amateur, and student musicians who inspire through their unique musical stories. Their example proves that music truly is for everyone, and we hope after reading, you’re motivated to begin and/or continue your musical journey.
By Jasmine Reese - For this week's "Music is for Everyone" interview, we ask Louisa a few questions about her new journey on violin.
After one year, Louisa makes consistent and fast progress, but like most adults, she struggles with limited time and overwhelming responsibilities (career, family, etc...). Which begs the question - how does one fit in practice and progress on violin when time is so limited?
When did you begin playing violin?
I began playing the violin in October 2016. I was a total beginner, although, I do have experience on other instruments. I played piano and clarinet as a child to a good amateur standard, but hadn’t touched an instrument for nearly 20 years.
Why did you begin playing?
I’ve always harboured a secret longing to play the violin. When my five-year-old daughter expressed an interest in taking lessons last Autumn after watching a school concert, I jumped at the opportunity to take her to meet a teacher and have a trial.
During the trial, I spontaneously asked if I might have a go, too, and my teacher handed me his violin. I think he was a bit surprised! I found the notes for G and D major one octave scales -- very shakily -- and played Twinkle by ear. The excitement of holding and playing a violin was really overwhelming, and I didn’t want to put it down.
After that trial, we concluded my daughter would wait a while longer before beginning (she starts lessons this week, one year on), but I couldn’t shake the feeling. I decided to go for it and begin weekly lessons. A few weeks after beginning my teacher, who’s been incredibly supportive, suggested I join our city’s chamber orchestra. It was terrifying at first, but a huge learning experience, and I’ve since played in two concerts in the second violins. 11 months after beginning, I’m now playing what feels like real music, and I’m happy that my sound is progressing.
What are your musical goals?
In the long term, to play beautifully, and to feel like a violinist. In the short term, I need to pluck up the courage to play in front of others – I suffer really badly from performance nerves.
What's your practice routine?
I have two young kids aged 4 and 5 and run my own business from home, so I fit practice in where I can! On a good day when the children are at school, I might fit in two to three hours in the morning before I start work. Weekends and school holidays are family time, however, so on those days, very little. I try and spend half of each practice session on scales and etudes, and the remainder on repertoire.
What do you find to be the most difficult part in learning so far?
Its proving to be a massive learning experience – my biggest issue is rushing. I practice and play too fast and don’t have a good inner tempo, so I’m learning to be friends with my metronome! Other than that, I have flexible arms and fingers and haven’t found it too strenuous.
How do you fit violin in as a busy career woman, mom, and wife?
I take every practice window I can! Every 20 minutes of thoughtful practice helps and contributes. It's become my essential downtime, and I’d probably go crazy without it, so I feel it's become much more than just a simple hobby.
Is your family supportive?
Yes, absolutely! My daughter and husband have attended both my orchestral concerts, and it was brilliant to see them there and witness their enjoyment. Now [that] my son is a little older, hopefully, he will be able to join them, too. And I’m looking forward to supporting my daughter as she begins her violin journey.
Any tips for other people with busy lives who are maybe holding out on taking up music as a hobby?
Just do it! it’s such a great way to meet new people, find inspiration, and a new enjoyment in life. You won’t regret it.