Thursday, July 8, 2010

A New Violin (Ch.6 Pt.1)

"Margie needs a better instrument before she starts Juilliard," my mother nudged my father weeks after returning from Meadowmount School of Music. "That young girl, Stephanie Chase, plays on a very fine violin which makes her sound like a professional."
I was relieved that my mother thought Stephanie played better than I did simply because of the quality of her violin. Of course I knew that Stephanie's accomplishments were the result of dedication and perseverance. She didn't sneak out during practice hours at Meadowmount to socialize and eat Entenmann's.
"What's the matter with Marjorie's violin?" my father asked, his face buried in a TV Guide. I could see only his balding head from the top of the pages.
"It's not up to par. Makes a zhurring sound, like a lawn mower."
"A wha?"
"It buzzes, John, like a zhurring sound buzz."

My father threw down the magazine.
"How much will a new violin cost, Frances? Because lessons at Juilliard are a huge expense, and as I keep telling you, I'm not exactly made out of money."
"Calm down. We'll shop around for a good deal. I wish Marjorie could play on a great instrument like Stephanie, but I guess that will have to wait—"
She cast her eyes heavenward and whispered as if in prayer. "Some day my Margie will have a precious violin from the Golden Age of makers. I just know it. All she needs is an angel."
"An angel? You're talking crazy Frances."
"No Johnny, I'm not," she said, her voice emphatic. "Don't you know? Many great musicians rely on wealthy individuals to loan them rare instruments. I'll bet that's what Stephanie has—a Stradivarius that was given to her by a benefactor. It makes all the difference to an artist. Stephanie produces such a marvelous tone, in part because of that violin; our Margie will have that someday too. Of course, it helps to have the right contacts. I mean, Stephanie's parents are both artists and well-educated—"
"Gee, I'm sorry Frances, that I'm only a furniture salesman. Forgive me."

My father nervously tapped his shirt pocket. "Have you seen my pack of Marlboros?"
"I have an idea."
"Oh Jeezus," he gasped. "Here it comes."
 "There's Scherl & Roth."
"Let me find my cigarettes before I go crazy here. What's a sherlinroth?"
"It's a string instrument company based in Cleveland, Ohio. Sarah Scriven assured me that the handmade Roth violins are wonderful. She tipped me off one day at a lesson, and said that Roths are modeled after the old master craftsmen, in other words, excellent copies—yet they're affordable. She showed me a brochure. I have it somewhere. Wait, I'll find it. There's a picture of an elderly man holding a violin. 
Think about it, John. It's not too much of a drive to Cleveland, is it? I mean, for that wonderful daughter of yours?"

Meanwhile, I broke my own practice record that day, and worked for six hours, just like Stephanie Chase. "Oh, that's my dolly," cheered my mother. "With a new violin in your hands, and six hours daily of practice, lessons at Juilliard, it's a recipe for success. And you'll outplay the other students because as far as I'm concerned—"
"Yes, Mummy?"
"You have the most talent."