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  • #8514 Reply

    William Bickerstaff

    Some of you have heard me say that I was learning to play violin from 1965 to 1974, quit for 41 years and then start playing again beginning last October. What you don’t know is what inspired me to begin again.

    Several years ago I found myself homeless and living in a tent in the forests of Missouri for several months with no companion but my cat. I spent most of my daytime hours looking for food (living off the land) and gathering firewood, and at night, I would sit around a small fire and contemplate my predicament.

    One night, as I was doing my contemplation, I heard… yes… a violin. The music was Paganini’s 24th Caprice. After a few minutes I decided that I really wasn’t going crazy and there really was some crazy violinist playing Paganini in the forests of Missouri… in the middle of nowhere!

    I “followed” the music until I saw, on the bank of the creek, a young lady playing the caprice on her violin. Not wishing to disturb her, I took a seat on a nearby log and listened. When she was finished I gave her a standing ovation… yes, she received a standing ovation from an audience of one.

    When she turned around, startled perhaps, and saw me there, she immediately apologized, in a Russian accent, for making “noise” and offered to stop playing. She explained that she had an audition in New York in about a week and was practicing the Paganini for that audition. I insisted that she play on… “You are not disturbing me”, I said and insisted that she play on as I quietly listened.

    Her name was Yulia Zhuravleva. A graduate of Ball State University in Violin Performance currently living in Massachusetts.

    I decided then and there that I would, somehow, start relearning the violin.

    About a month later I was “rescued” by my son after I was finally able to contact him. I have been living with him and my grandson since… a little over 5 years now as a traditional grampa helping my family… and playing the violin again.

    #8515 Reply

    William Bickerstaff
    #8516 Reply


    That’s a wonderful story. Inspiration comes in unusual places. For me, it I just decided I didn’t want to keep saying “gosh I want to learn the violin” and signed up for some lessons after a few weeks of teaching myself the basics.

    #8538 Reply


    Beautiful story. I’m glad you were able to improve your situation. That could not have been an easy predicament for sure.

    I was a part of a very musical family but was never all that musical myself. I remember my grandparents having kitchen parties at their house. Family members and friends would play various combinations of fiddle, guitar, accordion and singing. Back then, I always enjoyed those parties but never really thought about them much until years later.

    Both of my grandfathers played fiddle. One of my grandfathers was exceptionally good. Whenever he picked up a fiddle, the air almost became electric. He played a lot of shows/concerts in his younger days with my grandmother but not so much as he got older after my grandmother died. However, when someone convinced him to play again and I was around, I always felt I was hearing something special.

    Both of my grandfathers would allow me pick up their fiddle and I would pull the bow across the strings. One of my grandfathers taught me a little tune where I would down bow on the A, up bow on the E and down bow again on the A. I always enjoyed the sound but I never really learned to play past that.

    Both of my grandfathers passed away years ago but I was never able to get the fiddle out of my head. Finally around the middle of last year, I answered the call and bought my first violin. I started taking lessons at the beginning of September and have been in love ever since.

    Just after I started playing, I ordered a book of traditional music from the place I grew up by a man named Kelly Russell. I flipped through it one day and was looking at the author’s introduction. I was surprised to see that my grandfather was in a list of fiddlers that he wanted to play fiddle with but never got the chance. Me too, Kelly. Me too.

    #8542 Reply

    Interestingly, I had a similar re-start. I’d taken violin when I was in grammar school, but gave it up to start learning guitar. Flash-forward a few lifetimes and I was homeless in Marin County, living out of my van and working in a warehouse to save up for first and last of an apartment. A co-worker invited me to play for a dance troupe performing at the renaissance faire in Novato. The only instrument I had access to was a trashed mandolin. So for one season, I played mandolin. I noticed EVERYONE was playing mandolin except for a few fiddle players. I decided to stand out and I rented-to-own a violin from a local shop for $5 a month (this was in 1991) and help at the store. During my lunch breaks so I wouldn’t bug anyone with the noise, I would sit on the edge of the San Francisco bay and saw away at this thing, trying to learn the English country dance, morris dance, Irish and Scottish dance tunes I’d played on the mandolin. A while later when I was settled, I joined a blues band and a Celtic rock band. I’ve been playing now consistently for 25 years, but I never took any lessons. I learned by ear and by what made sense to do. I’m sure I’ve adopted every single bad habit imaginable. That’s why finding this site is so invaluable to me. I’m really eager to learn how to play this thang right!

    #8861 Reply


    I was looking for a new challenge and happened to see a sign in front of a house on the way to work advertising piano and violin lessons. For some reason, the violin lessons jumped out at me – I had never before contemplated playing the violin – I come from a guitar background – and as they say, the rest is history. I am hooked on violin now, and have also purchased a viola. I am not quite sure which I like better – the higher pitched violin, or the sweet, lower pitched sound of the viola!

    #9023 Reply


    I used to play in school and enjoyed it. Now it’s like I’ve never played and I’m frustrated. Anyone know where I can get lessons in Toronto Ontario

    #9177 Reply


    Check out Long and McQuade. I’m doing lessons at the location in Ottawa. I don’t think all of the locations offer lessons but it may be a good place to start. Even if they don’t offer lessons, they may be able to point you to somewhere that does.

    #9275 Reply

    Lydia Tran

    I’m not an adult…But I stumbled upon this and wanted to read it… Such beautiful, inspirational stories. 🙂 I started when I was six years old…simply because I was curious of the shiny, pretty instrument that belonged to my sister…now, eleven years later, music is the love of my life and I love this website because I get to share this passion with such a diverse group of people

    #10867 Reply

    Johanne Aube

    I always loved the violin, but thought it was too hard for me to play, until my cousin learned to play and told me it wasn’t as hard as he thought it might be. He is very good, but then again, he’s brilliant on the guitar. I on the other hand, was totally new at a string instrument. I’m not learning nearly as quickly as he did, but I can play by ear. I’m also learning too read music – I read music for piano in the past. I find it much harder to put to the violin, but loving the challenge. I do wish, I would have started the violin years and years ago though 🙂

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