Dick’s Forum – No. 3
I started violin lessons in a music store in Los Angeles, Ca in 1946. My father “marched” me into the store, looked at the clerk, pointed at me and said “teach him how to play the violin.” Such was the beginning of a very stormy relationship between my father and I over the violin. As with most things in my early relationship with him I did not get to vote, it was simply “do as you are told.”
I hated the violin, I hated the sound I made on it. I hated carrying the fool thing around at school, and most of all I dreaded those times when visitors would come to our home. My father would look at me and say “Richard, play us something on your violin,” and I would stand there feeling stupid while I tried to scratch my way through some little inane ditty I had recently learned.
At about the age of ten, I told my father I did not want to play the violin any more, I’d had enough! He thought a few moments and then much to my surprise he agreed saying, “O.K. You don’t have to play the violin anymore, but you can’t go out to play until you are eighteen!” I kept playing the fool thing.
Clayton Morningstar was my first teacher. I used to think he wasn’t a very good teacher but I have since changed my mind. He kept me playing my hated violin for six or seven years and faithfully came to our home every week to teach me my lesson. I think the truth of the matter is that during those years I wasn’t a very good student and it speaks well of his faithfulness that he never gave up on me.
During my sophomore year in high school (Excelsior Union High School in Norwalk, CA), somehow I was selected to play in the All-State Symphony Orchestra and for the first time in my life, traveled away from home without my parents to this event in Berkley, California. What a shock!!!! The other violin players were good. They were my own age and they could play rings around me. It became apparent that I had no business being at this event but since I was there, I had to stay and be part of it. I was seated in the last chair, second violins, just in front of the tympani. During rehearsals and the concert it was all I could do to keep up and read the music, let alone contribute anything. A very embarrassing experience.
My parents came to the concert. My father was as mortified at I at my abilities and performance and it was like a wake up call to him. He vowed to do something about my lack of violinistic skill and find me a new teacher and that is just what he did.