I had been passing the violin shop several times a week for 2 or 3 years but had never gone in. You wouldn’t know it was there really: one single glass door, wedged between a furniture store and a dentist. If you peered through the door all that you could see was a flight of stairs leading upwards…forever upwards.
Sure there was an old wooden sign swinging from the awning outside, but you would have to look up to see that.
I had often thought to myself “I wonder what’s inside a violin shop?” or “if I went inside what would I say?” or “who goes into a violin shop and why?” I admit I liked listening to chamber and classical music, and went along to the occasional orchestral concert, but I had never held a violin in my hands before, couldn’t tell you what a viola was, and had a very poor understanding of how to read actual music.
And let’s face it I was over 50 and past it as far as learning to play any new instrument was concerned.
One lunchtime I mustered up the courage to finally open the glass door and climb the stairs – no small feat I must say. At the top of the stairs there was a sharp left turn, which revealed an Aladdin’s cave of wooden instruments: violins, cellos and a huge double bass. There was also a wonderful smell of wood shavings, varnish and the dust of bow rosin, built up over years and years and musicians trying out instruments and bows there on the shop floor.
I panicked of course.
All of this was unfamiliar to me at the time. An assistant came to the counter to ask if he could be of assistance. I quickly stammered out some unplanned questions to shield my ignorance and confusion, mumbled my thanks for his responses (which I didn’t register) and ran off back down the stairs and into the open air.
As I calmed down I told myself that was a close shave, and vowed never again to wander into unchartered territory on a whim.
About a year went by, but this strange wooden shop still had a hold on me.
Another lunchtime came, and I was stricken with an overwhelming impulse to go through that glass door again, to climb that long staircase again, and to take that sharp left turn again. THIS time though, I had some premeditated questions:
“How much does a violin cost?”
“How much do lessons cost?”
“Where can I find a teacher?”, and
“If I buy a violin, pay for lessons, only to find out I’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake, can I sell the violin back?”
So there I was again, amid the smell of wood shavings, varnish and the dust of bow rosin. An assistant came to the counter to ask if he could be of assistance. It was the same assistant as before. Actually, he was Vincent the shop owner. Vincent the teacher.
That visit was 15 years ago. It was the beginning of one of the happiest and most rewarding journeys of my life. I didn’t make a terrible, terrible mistake after all.