During a sporting event, have you ever let your mind wander beyond the competition to observe the pure skill being displayed on the playing field?
Have you ever wondered how many practice hours that an athlete completes before taking his or her first run down the Olympic downhill course? The hours build up over many years. Each succeeding hour layers atop the preceding hour; when combined, they result in the seemingly effortless performances, we watch every weekend.
Recently, I experienced the same wondrous feeling at a different venue. My friend, Bob Childs, makes violins. Every year, he puts on a series of concerts in which the musicians perform on his instruments. At the particular concert I attended, there were ten violinists and a squad of other musicians playing various instruments to fill in the symphony of beautiful and mesmerizing sounds.
I sat in the front row and watched each musician intently. I watched the violinists' fingers move up and down the neck of their instruments, hitting every note. I wondered how they could return their fingers back to the exact same place on the neck to repeat the same note over and over again, without looking. And while moving their bows in rhythmic progressions over the strings - slow to fast, titillating to exquisitely tender.
There are no frets on a violin or cello to guide the fingers into position, as there are on a guitar. A violinist or cellist learns to produce such beautiful sounds and notes through thousands of hours and many years of practice. He or she learns, refines and masters a piece, or a series of pieces, much like an athlete trains and prepares for a sporting contest.
At this particular concert, it was not just an individual playing, but a group, much like a team of athletes. The musicians worked both individually and together. One would start out and the others would fill in with rhythms, much like a well organized team supporting and working with each other all the way to the goal - a complete team effort. A symphony of moving skills and dynamic performances on the playing field.
Of the many thoughts I entertained during the night, I came to the realization that in my life time, I would never be able to learn how to play the violin or cello at the concert level. Yet, I am thankful that some people chose to develop a skill to such a level that it can entertain, move and inspire everyone who comes to see them perform.