I played the violin since I was 5 and coloring all over the walls. It was always there in my life, but I hardly noticed. As I grew older, there was a book club, swimming practice, and dance. My parents often reminded me to practice, and my teacher pushed me to memorize songs, rhythms, and practice bow holds, with me often getting bored out of my mind. All these years after (7 years), I wondered why I didn't quit a long time ago. Mostly, as I was looking back, I figured it was the feeling of dread in my stomach building up that quitting violin would be another one on my list of "Things I Gave Up At". After all, when I turned eleven, I was getting back into the schedule of waking up, practicing the violin, and going on with the rest of my day, but turning twelve was like the doomsday of my life! I was going to middle school, Back to School Night was on my birthday (as usual), and there was a new orchestra teacher, Mr. Ridge. Mr. Ridge wasn't the easygoing type, and the first day we walked into Pike Town Middle School, we literally had to straighten up in our seats, instruments placed in the correct angle on our laps, bracing for screams. I had nothing to worry about since I took private lessons, and Mr. Ridge hardly paid any attention to me until he asked me to play for the class on my doomsday.
In the folds of my violin case, I had always packed a few Suzuki books, but nothing too challenging over book 2. I took book 2 out nervously that day, and watched kids stare me down, waiting for me to be yelled at, or worse! Mr. Ridge led me to the front of the room, me all the while mourning that I just wanted to have a regular, fun birthday. Instead, I was being watched in a cage, like an animal in a zoo. After taking sharp inhales in and out, I played a song that would be sure to impress the teacher, but would be simple shifting, nothing too hard for me to handle. The song was short, and after finishing in a matter of less than a minute, I ran back to my seat before Mr. Ridge could say something even more humiliating.
During the rest of the class, I kept my head down, not answering any questions, hoping nobody would notice I was even a part of the class. At home, I would cut a cake and eat a big slice. I tried to remember the taste of tiramisu cake, my favorite, but it was hard to imagine anything good coming out of today. Mom probably would have only 10 minutes to spend with me before heading to "Back to School Night". Class ended and everyone dashed to lunch. I ran amidst the crowd so I would be in time to collect a library pass. I greatly enjoyed spending time with my librarian, Mrs. Potts while reading some of my favorite titles. But, as my luck was going down the drain anyway, I heard Mr.Ridge call my name in the middle of all the confusion.
"Angie!!!!! Come here!"
For a second, I thought of ditching him in the crowd, but my conscience got in the way and I trailed back into the classroom.
"You were okay up there. Many things you could improve on, but overall, a nice job I guess." I frowned, wondering what he was up to. He could've told me this during class!
"I think though, that you would be a magnificent violist!" Words got stuck inside my mouth.
"Viola??? What's a viola????" My heart was sinking. Was I no good at the only thing I hadn't quit at?
"Yes. Viola. Violas are just like violins, except are bigger in size and deeper in sound. Try it out. I'm sure you would love the transition." All I knew I'd be transitioning from was this class.
In the library, I barely listened to Mrs. Potts and was reading up on violas. I would have to ask my teacher and parents about this, even though I knew I would never switch. 7 years playing the violin, and now I'd have to start all over again with a whole new instrument!!!!!! Mrs. Potts stopped to ask me a question, but then, seeing my frustration, she escaped to ask her question to another kid sitting nearby. I hated turning twelve.
My parents also began reading up on violas, but I never joined them. They were fine with the transition, but I wasn't so sure. I never listened to the sound of the viola either. Not until Mr. Ridge stopped me In the halls to listen with me together. I honestly thought he was stalking me, for sure!
"Hey. Listen to this!" I groaned inwardly, but sitting in a chair, listening to the wonderful instrument, I was hooked onto every note. A man was playing what very much looked like a violin, but playing much deeper notes.
"Are violas much different from violins, note-wise? Mr. Ridge seemed deep in thought, and he answered thoughtfully.
"Note-wise, not really, except it's in a different clef; alto clef. For you though, a viola will appeal to you much more. You'll greatly enjoy it, and even though it seems as if I'm criticizing you as not being a good violin player, I'm not. You sound wonderful on the violin." His words swayed me, but I didn't know how to react to the change. How would it feel to start all over again? Mr. Ridge looked at me with sympathy and suddenly cracked a small smile.
" Once upon a viola, Angie started to play..." We laughed. This was so unlike the Mr. Ridge I knew. This one was funny, kind, and actually seemed as if he had feelings. I knew I wouldn't hold back for much longer. I just loved the way the viola sounded. It was time for me to face my greatest fear, the fear of making a mistake.
The viola came home a week after my conversation in the orchestra room. It had a bow, strings, pegs, a bridge, and basically everything a violin would have, but I felt some excitement building up in my gut. It had been a long time since I'd tried something new. That day, I also went to see my teacher and he exclaimed that he too was a viola teacher, and it had been his first instrument. We discussed the transition for the next week, and I began recognizing the notes in alto clef. Soon enough, I was sitting in the viola section of my orchestra, yelling at the violin section, demanding that we get as much recognition as them. I even made a few friends along the way, and met a bunch of new people! I was starting fresh, starting over, but in my heart, I knew that once upon a viola would have a happy ending.