When I was ten, my mother drove me from our hometown of Concord to a violin shop located in Berkeley. After finding parking on University Avenue, my mother paused to admire the silks displayed in the Indian fabric and clothing store: shimmery splashes of magenta and chartreuse and gold-embossed tunics and saris. Besides teaching me music, she had also taught me to sew, but today our mission was music, not fabric. Walking another block, we found and entered the narrow storefront where families of violins and violas lined the walls like attentive students, silent and curvaceous, waiting to sing their notes.
We had come to select a full-sized violin for me, since I had moved up over the years from a half-sized to three-quarters-sized violin and was now ready for a full-sized beauty. The salesman pulled down a violin of reddish hue and handed it to me. I put it to my chin and listened as I stroked the bow across the strings, feeling with my heart for the sound I wanted. I shook my head and handed it back to him. He pulled down another violin, and another. The violin I eventually selected was stylish, with a bold voice. The petals of an inlaid mother-of-pearl flower gleamed from the black piece that met the chin rest. I loved that pretty flower as much as I loved the violin’s vibrant resonance: full-bodied, melodic, clean.
As a pre-teen girl, I prided myself on her bold voice. She was not timid, so I could not be timid when I played her. She could whisper of course, but she was more likely to shout in solid, staccato notes. I loved bringing out the variations in her voice to match my mood. Whatever emotion I wanted to convey, she issued that tone, that feeling, into the world.