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Rebecca Raney - The Reckless Violinist

Respectable journalist. Terrible waitress. Reckless Violinist. Noir novelist. Longtime contributor at The New York Times. Sign up to follow my cross-platform project about money, merit and music in the turmoil of America.

Featured Post

Back in Black, Just in Time for 'Gig-Mas'

Three years ago, still in the throes of the lockdown, I had my first contact with the music world in many years. I was picking up my violin from the shop, where it had undergone a complete resurrection, and a woman in a Subaru started honking and yelling at me in the parking lot. Oh my God. It was a violinist. “You can’t go in there!” she screamed. “You have to have an appointment. You HAVE to HAVE an appointment!” I yelled right back. “I DO have an appointment, for God’s sake! Jesus Christ.”...

6 months ago • 5 min read

I’ve always believed that violinists would make excellent criminals, because every time you play something well, you’ve committed the perfect crime. The difference between playing a note right and playing a note wrong happens in a matter of a millimeter. No matter how effortless it looks, a performance is never effortless. If all goes well, you feel as if you’ve gotten away with murder. I'm back to plotting those crimes again, every Thursday night, with a group of peers. Somehow, I stumbled...

7 months ago • 3 min read

Good afternoon! I’m happy to report that I’m still playing the violin. But I’m definitely pursuing my playing in a way that my teachers would not have liked. Earlier this year, I abandoned plans to dissect two of the major violin concertos – the Khachaturian and the Mendelssohn. If I had pushed forward with the plan, it would have been a very “Juilliard method” thing to do. However, I’ve got more serious obligations than a 15-year-old phenom, so I’ve had to take this project off-road a bit....

almost 2 years ago • 1 min read

During the last few weeks, I’ve been drafting, scripting, cutting clips and laying down the backing tracks for my one-year violin progress reel. The “violin progress” genre is a big deal on YouTube, so I wanted to get it right. As I pieced together a narrative, I thought about all the factors that took me from a complete loss of skills to a passable rendition of Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto. What was one the biggest factors? It’s . . . you. It’s the audience – particularly the subscribers...

about 2 years ago • 1 min read

January was awful. The soundtrack: Hissing and howling, broken only by the heavenly melodies of Mozart. The month started with the uncomfortable decision to send a child to school during a COVID surge, just after he had recovered from major surgery. It continued with a barrage of traumatic messages, delivered daily, about the child’s COVID exposures at school. It peaked when I went to pick up COVID tests, and my car – purchased less than a year ago – was broadsided in an intersection. I...

over 2 years ago • 3 min read

This time last year, I was getting ready to play the violin again. Just after the election, the local violin maker refurbished the instrument. During the weeks after that, I learned how to tune again. It took me at least a half-hour to tune, every time. My neck was not ready for the challenge. Within a couple of weeks, I couldn't turn my head. Then the glue failed on the neglected violin, and the instrument’s neck broke. The violin snapped when the neck separated from the body. It went off...

over 2 years ago • 1 min read

Good morning! When I sat down this month to work up the overture for the Nutcracker, it felt like a big moment. This time last year, I had just gotten my violin back from the shop, and I thought I would sit down and kick out the Nutcracker after 25 years away. Well . . . it didn't work out that way. Here's the video essay where I recount what a terrible moment that was -- and how I've devoted the last year to repairing an act of vandalism on my life. If you prefer to read the piece, here's a...

over 2 years ago • 1 min read

Today I’m asking myself this question: Which idea came first? Was it the desire to mock all the advice I received about my attire as a competitive musician from the wrong side of town? Or was it the desire to play silly songs from Die Fledermaus? It’s hard to say, really, but both wishes came true in today's video essay from the audition coach. The video features 10 costume changes – but it’s hard to tell, because all the clothes are black. In the endeavor to fit in with the elevated company...

over 2 years ago • 1 min read

Good morning! It’s fall in California, and the cool weather reminds me of one thing: Youth Symphony. The auditions. The challenge system. The constant jockeying for position. It’s the place where I learned how to compete. Here's what I didn't learn: That the real white-collar world didn’t play that rough. Why were elite student orchestras so brutal, even in a place like Kansas City? Well, as is often the case, we had two elite violin teachers in the city. Youth Symphony was the arena in which...

over 2 years ago • 1 min read

Good morning! After producing nearly 50 videos this year – and learning to play the violin again – I took a four-week break. During that time, the publishing machine that I built has kept going. In fact, that machine is telling me exactly what to do next: To take more time to produce better video. I’ve reached early competition level as a violinist. On a technical level, I’m playing how I played at the age of 15. You know what that makes me remember? Youth Symphony. So, during the next few...

almost 3 years ago • 1 min read
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