Fighting the Oppression of the Violin

Rebecca Raney
3 min readJul 21, 2021

A Progress Report from the Reckless Violinist

Photo Illustration by Rebecca Raney

This month, I remembered why I would have never succeeded as a professional violinist.

During my teens, I was plagued by the sight of a competitor named K. — a prodigy who had studied with my teacher since she was 3. Like a Holy Sister, she spent every waking moment with her thoughts cast on a singular devotion. In her case, the devotion was the violin. By the time she reached her teens, her personality was completely subsumed by her focus. If you said hello, she did not know how to answer.

I understood, on a fundamental level, that K.’s obsession with the instrument was a demonstration of what it took to succeed. Her example inspired me to maintain a healthy distance from the excessive demands of music.

In early July, I finished taping the Masquerade Waltz by Aram Khachaturian. It was the last part of the “summer of Russian waltzes” — Phase II of the Reckless Violinist project — and the end of my rigorous six-month training regimen to get back in shape. It worked; I advanced from beginner’s level to early competition level — a feat that took seven years the first time around.

However, to my horror, when it was over, I could not settle on the next steps in the regimen. I could not sustain the obsession that launched the project, and the truth of the matter is, I never could. Not for the violin.

A little voice said, “Maybe you should consult with a violin teacher, just to give you some direction.”

Well, that’s the last thing I want to do.

The cathartic component of this project is to re-introduce this side of my life without the duress of recitals, competitions and Big Auditions. To play on my own terms. That’s why I’ll spend the next few weeks playing, but without the rigid approach of the last six months.

I’ve long known that one obsession leads to another. The focus that I cultivated when working up a concerto applied to other vocations: News writing. Reporting. Analyzing data. Writing novels. Video editing.

Of course, if you can harness that energy, then it’s not really obsession. I learned that from K. too.

Here’s this week’s installment on YouTube. It’s a workup on the violin of the Masquerade Waltz by Aram Khachaturian.

Let’s keep in touch!

This progress report is an excerpt from my newsletter. I write about the ups and downs of art and discipline, including success, failure, obsession and how to know when to back off.

The newsletter is free, and I send it every other week.

Here’s the link: Rebecca Raney — The Reckless Violinist

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Rebecca Raney

Respectable journalist. Terrible waitress. Reckless Violinist. YouTuber/Novelist. Contributor at The New York Times. Follow at