My Music Journey by Kaylene Duttchen

I was born into a musical family. My grandfather played violin mostly in the fiddle style; my mom played piano, accordion and sang; and my aunt played piano and accordion. I loved music and idolized my grandpa with his sweet fiddle. However, I was not so lucky as to inherit the musicality that some of my family simply just had. When I was 5, I started piano lessons but I really wanted to play the violin. My mom enrolled me in Suzuki violin group lessons at 6 years old instead of piano. I had already learned to read sheet music and I cannot remember a time before sheet music as it made sense to my brain – that came easily. However, Suzuki method actually started without sheet music and was all ear training based. I rapidly became a Suzuki failure – I could play the song when the pianist had the music open beside me but not from ear. I still wanted to play violin, so my loving mother found a local private teacher.


I lived in rural central Alberta and there was a local 17 year old girl who played violin in the farm community. She was ready to try her hand at teaching and I was her first student – we were 10 years apart in age. I spent the next 10 years playing violin and even dreamed of a career in music. However, I realized that I lacked any natural talent for music and all I had was the love of it. I was lucky to have a teacher who built me up even in my struggles with intonation, a family who listened to bad violin kindly and a community to play in. This included playing in a fiddle group, rural Alberta fiddle contests, a youth orchestra and even a chamber music trio. I made first desk second violin in the youth orchestra and played for weddings in my chamber music trio. However, I always knew I was not very good. Sometimes you love things anyways.


I also was gifted with a beautiful violin by my parents as a teenager. It was always a better instrument than I was matched for, but it is the most treasured material gift my parents gave me.


When I graduated high school, I headed to university taking pharmacy, then I worked for 3 years before returning to university to study medicine. I graduated a physician and specialized in anesthesia completing another 5 years of training. During these years I made one attempt to take a violin lesson from a university professor – he had me play a scale and informed me that not a single note was in tune. I picked up my violin maybe a handful of times after that, through these years. My beloved grandpa passed away and left me his beautiful violin the year before my daughter was born. I already had one amazing violin sitting idle.


My daughter joined my family the year I finished my training in anesthesia. I knew she would get music lessons of some sort. When she was 3, I had a random encounter with a piano teacher. I asked if she would teach a 3-year-old child. She said it depended on how well the child could communicate. Hahaha – my daughter was one of those little ones who did not stop speaking and was very clearly intelligible. So piano lessons started with a teacher of music and life. We are so blessed to have that teacher still in our lives – she is a dear friend.


We had just gotten a piano as a gift from a family friend downsizing. The piano had been from my grandpa’s good friend and pastor, so it is also part of my legacy.


My daughter also loved violin and at age 6, started violin lessons. Between piano and violin we figured out she had perfect pitch, played easily by ear and was a joyously musical child. I was inspired to learn again to be able to both help her and play with her. We found a different violin teacher close to our home who was very approachable. In January of 2018, I started some random lessons again. I was very anxious about playing for anyone as I had stated years ago, I would never play in public again.


I optimistically started at level 7 pieces (Royal Conservatory of Music) as I had played some of that level almost 25 years before. Sometimes I am an overachiever.


Violin became a wonderful addiction, and I have thrown my heart and soul into improving. My son started violin as well, my husband couldn’t be left out so he picked up guitar, and well, my daughter plays any musical instrument she can get her hands on. I play with my mom accompanying me for simple hymns and folksongs when I visit her. We have done online collaborations with my aunt who is in her 80’s.


It is so wonderful to see my young son love all kinds of music. His favourite composer is Edvard Grieg and he runs around singing Mozart pieces. Yet, he also plays rock and roll on his electric guitar. Music is amazing.


Just within the last year, my daughter became big enough to play her great-grandfather’s violin. This brought tears to my eyes and was only surpassed when I played my own violin with his again. These 2 instruments have played many duets so long ago. My daughter feels she has a part of her great-grandpa’s soul with her when she plays his violin.


I still struggle with even hearing intonation but my dogged dedication has taken me to working on level 10 pieces. COVID opened a world of online video festivals and I have submitted to those to try to increase my performing skills, but I still wonder that anyone would want to listen to me.


I joined the Adult Music Learners Group just before COVID hit and attended a couple meetings live. Since we have been ZOOM meeting, I rarely miss one. I love having people who share my passion, listen willingly and supportively to my violin, and who progress in their own learning and musical journey before my eyes. When one of us succeeds and progresses we all celebrate and benefit. The group’s increased number of meetings via ZOOM has been a COVID silver lining for me. I have found kindred music spirits here.


When the days have been dark and they are again now due to COVID cases and deaths, surgery cancellations including cancers patients resulting in little professional work for me, music has been my light, my joy and another calling. I plan to retire some day from medicine long in the future to play full time for pleasure and each day I work to get a little better musically. I dream of the day I can stand up proudly and play a high level piece and know I sound good!


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