I’m often asked at what age I started to play the violin. The slightly terrifying answer is that I was three years old. So that means that I’ve been learning the violin for nearly 32 years.
Anyway, I don’t really remember much about starting to play, but my parents took me to start with the wonderful Suzuki method, which works on the premise that every child has the potential to develop musical abilities of some level with the right opportunity. There is much repetition involved and the method is based on how a child would learn to speak his own language.
I credit Suzuki with my ability to memorise music rather easily, as everything was learnt by heart. I don’t know if they still do this, but I remember group classes where you would play all the pieces starting from the beginning of Book 1 all together, and sit down once you had got a piece in a book you hadn’t learnt yet. There are some pieces that stick in the memory to this day like the Fiocco Allegro!
When people hear that I started at 3, they usually assume that it was my parents’ wish that I start. In fact, it was me who wanted to begin. There’s a lovely (if slightly embarrassing!) story of when my parents were watching a classical music concert on the television after I had been put to bed one night. They were watching a violinist play a concerto with an orchestra, and I climbed out of bed, came downstairs, sat about 2 inches away from the TV screen, and announced “I want to do THAT…”
I went to Suzuki for 4 years until I was seven years old. I think the last piece I learnt with them was the first movement of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor.