As a Masters student living and studying in Switzerland, it's so difficult for me to imagine life without my second family at the Young European Strings School of music. In fact, I'd rather not think about it! :)
No, I did not beg my mother to start playing the violin, and no, I did not magically pick up the violin and instantly play the Perpetuum Mobile! The truth is far less romantic and yes, there were plenty of tears, temper tantrums and music stands in the air! In fact, rarely did I ever want to see the thing, certainly not in order to practice scales and studies and especially not for the hours I was required to do as a student at the Young European Strings.
However... to my greatest relief now :) neither Maria nor my mother pushed me into continuing and with every bad week that came along, instead of pushing me to go back, I was always given the option to stop altogether. To my own irritation, I didn't seem to want to stop and in a temper and with some determination, I went back the following week. I soon began to realize that it was everything but easy to learn the violin, never mind trying to play it well, but somehow with time I knew I needed to work harder and that if I tried to focus myself for just a few hours in every day that I could start to play the things I couldn't play before. Not only this, but I started to enjoy myself and I began to love the results that came out of it.
Life as a musician is so incredibly fulfilling and rarely is there a dull moment, yet at the same time it can be extremely tough and I know that my time at the Young European Strings together with Maria and then later with Mr. Masin prepared me musically, technically and especially mentally for what was to come. I gained the discipline and developed the dedication that is so important to my studies today. Not only in my musical studies, but also in my everyday life.
Things don't get easier in any career; they only become more complex and difficult in time. However after all the hard work both mentally and physically, the rewards start to feel so much more worth it and continue to give me the inspiration I need to keep pushing myself to progress further and further.
I can talk about all the technical aspects, musical knowledge and experiences I gained from both Maria and Mr. Masin but, in fact, it was the overall atmosphere, love for music and the care that they provided for me as their student which stand out. All the preparation and guidance they gave me as a small child shaped me into the student and violinist I am today. Having lived and studied in Germany, America and now in Switzerland, I have met students and studied and performed with some of the greatest musicians and teachers from around the world and I know that none of it would have been possible without Maria's dedication and persistence, Mr. Masin's beautiful sound and musical inspiration, and the comfort I always felt at my second home at Cypress Downs.
I started to study with Ronald at age sixteen. I had a wonderful teacher at home in Cork but, after six years, I suppose it was time for a change of scenery. It is healthy to have a handful of teachers in one's life. And I've been lucky to have had four or five great ones.
I was a very introverted young person, I think, compared to teenagers today!
And performing on stage, one has to rid oneself of those frightening inhibitions.
Ronald Masin brought me out of my shell. 'Loosened me up'. Quite literally. I remembering doing many simple relaxation exercises in the beginning, much like the holistic approach we see of the great Yehudi Menuhin.
I also had to start to practice hard! Ronald demanded that! I had never done more than half an hour a day on piano and violin.
However, he proved that with hard work (getting up before school to do two hours in a cold kitchen so as not to disturb the family upstairs) the results would come. And they did.
Technically I came on in leaps and bounds. Also, as a person, I opened up. My world opened up outside of Cork and my family.
I would travel up to the big smoke (Dublin) every Saturday, quite a commitment at age sixteen. It was also a big commitment for my parents, who were extremely supportive.
Sometimes, I would even get to stay the weekend so Ronald could continue teaching me the next day. I have very fond memories of this time with the whole Masin family.
This was a formative period for me and with the expert guidance of Ronald, I decided to become a professional violinist. Thank you Ronald!
When I was three and a half, I went to Young European Strings School of Music for the first time, to have an 'assessment' to see if I was musical enough to join the school.
Maria Kelemen made me try out different instruments, such as the piano, drums and a wooden xylophone. After I finished, Maria and my mother started discussing the outcome of the test, and I distinctly remember at that point that Maria handed me a piece of paper and an orange marker to scribble with.
Later that day I found out that Maria had agreed to give me violin lessons as I had 'musical potential' and 'good hands'.
The next day I went to the nearest violin shop to buy a 16th size violin. My parents ordered the music for some studies and pieces requested by Maria, and the subsequent week I had my first violin lesson.
I learnt how to pluck the strings and was taught by Maria the names of the four strings. Gradually after a few lessons I began to make progress and every Monday from 5pm to 6pm I went to a music appreciation class where I met other children of my age from the school.
I soon joined the Junior Orchestra, and it was not long before I had moved up to the Intermediate Orchestra. I also had group theory lessons with some of the others from orchestra, for 30 minutes, before or after orchestra depending on the grade.
In the last couple of the years, I have taken part in some international competitions, and it is a very rewarding experience. I have never practised that much in one go before! Before a competition, the situation is very tense, and you feel that all the other competitors are against you. But after, you feel much nicer towards your competitors, regardless of results. I remember in one of my most recent competitions, there was a girl I really couldn't stand at all, but after I found out she was actually really nice!
I have recently celebrated my 10th year playing the violin and studying with Young European Strings, and I don't regret it!