Violin and fiddle stuff

Al Justice is proof that learning to play violin in your forties is achievable.


Friday, November 19th, 2010

Al Justice is learning to play violin in his forties

Al Justice learning to play violin in his forties

Al Justice is proof that learning to play violin in your forties is achievable.

Fiddlerman: What made you decide to play the fiddle?
Al: It was an accident. I went to the music store to buy banjo strings and bought a cheap beginner’s violin set on the fly.

F: How long ago was that?
A: This March it will be six years ago.

F: If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?
A: Just turned 50.

F: Did anyone tell you that you would not be able to learn violin this late in the game?
A: Yes. But I did not listen to them, because I have an extensive background in playing other instruments.

F: I believe in you Al.
A: Thanks-I’m not bragging, but I do too.

F: You seem like the learn it yourself kind of guy. What methods did you choose for learning to play violin?
A: I signed up immediately for lessons with Mary Beth Kirkpatrick, a first chair violinist with the WV symphony; and, went way virtual (online). I also had a world class coach on the side, Christine Carr McGuire, who graduated with honors from UCINN Conservatory.

F: How long did it take you before you felt like you actually could entertain on the fiddle?
A: LMAO – immediately.
Of course, I was wrong. :0
Once I was raising money busking for a Hurricane Katrina family at six months in with a badly damaged left hand.. I wore an old house coat, a straw hat, and had a neon sign that said for 50 cents I’ll play a song, for a dollar I won’t. I got lots of dollars.

F: You are obviously a busy man. How do you find time for violin in your busy schedule?
A: I make time. I’m in love.
I actually structure my life around practice.

F: What is the funnest thing that you have ever done with your fiddle, either by yourself or with a group?
A: Uh – probably the busking. When I play with various garage bands and people, I let loose rocking, completely fun and immersed.
I also like to call people that are special to me and play happy birthday to them. Stuff like that – I guess.

F: What is the most time that you have ever spent practicing? Either for a day or on a regular basis.
A: At least 6 hours in one day though the minimum I practice is an hour and a half.

F: That is extremely admirable. I’ve been playing since I was a child, but to learn a new instrument and give it that much effort is fantastic.
A: The violin smacked me square in the heart/face.

F: Do you plan on keeping this obsession up or will you find a new love?
A: I may learn to play the viola.
But no – I intend on staying focused, completely focused on the violin.
I am able to play the piano professionally already.

F: Ah, that explains a lot of things. You are a professional pianist.
A: In a way, yes. I competed playing in the “Air Force Tops in Blues” to world wide level.

F: What goals have you set for yourself as a violinist?
A: Just steady basic technical progress that will strengthen my left hand and continue my current progress of using the entire bow.
Also to play the Bach Double, Vivaldi, Fiocco, and others.

F: You seem to have it all figured out, I love it.
A: And rocking!!! Dang, I rocked last night.
I’m having this existential issue though. My teacher doesn’t want me digging in, and once I learned slow bow at the bridge, I’m a monster!!!!!

F: BTW, Digging in has a place in music as well. Just don’t do it when you shouldn’t be. Ponticello also has a nice place in rock and blues.
A: Ponticello is a new word for me.
F: That means to play on the bridge, not literally though. The ponticello sound is very metallic and suitable to lots of modern music, jazz and rock but was even used in Baroque music.

F: I’m glad you want to expand to multiple genres. It makes the violin so much more interesting.
A: I’ve been doing that since I was six. Think Tchaikovsky. Also storytelling.
You won’t get this, but think Appalachia meets Bartok.
I was playing slap-bass on the piano at the age of 10.
I’m using bow speed for volume and resonance.
But when I watch Roby Lakatos….

F: How about giving us “Al Justice’s best tip” for the want to be violinist out there.
A: Work your ass off! You might want to edit that. Maybe write “work your butt off some more”.
F: That’s OK, I’ll leave ass on there. I believe in freedom of speech.

F: Is there something in particular that you would like to share with us all based on your experience?
A: Music is a language that born musicians speak without reservation. Go there, and the violin will meet you. It is a conversational instrument that does not lie, nor like liars.

F: Great words of wisdom, Al. Thanks a million.

by: Pierre Holstein

Leave a Reply