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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.”...

2 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...

4 months ago • 3 min read

Good morning! It feels like many years have passed since the depths of the lockdown, when I decided to turn long hours of seclusion into an opportunity to play the violin again. In that time, I learned to play, and I recovered a great deal more: A lost identity, and a pathway through tragedies to come. Two years after starting the project, as I struggle to make a plan for what to do in the next few years, I’m discovering a hard truth: Nearly every ensemble can use another violinist, but...

10 months ago • 3 min read

Did you see that woman at the airport, screaming from the top of the escalator? Get up! Please! You’ve got to get on this plane! Please! Please!” That woman was me, of course. I was panicked and pleading with my child, after having tried every trick in the book to get him on an aircraft. My husband and I were taking him to a clinic to start a potentially life-altering medical treatment. He had dropped to the ground and would not move. I look back at that moment, when I panicked in the...

over 1 year 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...

over 1 year ago • 1 min read

Good morning! At this moment, it feels like we’re living in a constant state of national mourning in the United States. We mourn our lost children, we mourn our sense of progress, and we mourn the shared values that once made this nation seem undefeatable. For me, the larger losses of society are compounded by personal loss. After my son’s surgery in December, doctors discovered that his underlying medical condition is far more serious than anyone had thought. Three months after the...

over 1 year ago • 2 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...

almost 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...

about 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...

about 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...

about 2 years ago • 1 min read
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