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by Katya Papatla

Katya Papatla studied at the String Academy of Wisconsin for 13 years. She is currently a freshman at Duke University.

Katya Papatla studied at the String Academy of Wisconsin for 13 years. She is currently a freshman at Duke University.

It is 8:00 am and I am sitting in the back row of room 320, watching the usual Saturday morning violin class commence. I observe the small, fumbling hands, watch the two restless feet, and smile at the roguish grin that tugs at the corners of her mouth. Glancing around the room, I see her parents; I take in their casual Saturday morning clothes, look at the coffee in his hand and the tea in hers. I can’t help but chuckle at the exasperated expressions on both of their faces as they watch their daughter.

The girl looks around the room, ignoring the teacher and her instructions. Fidgeting, she moves this way and that, smoothly avoiding the teacher’s guiding hands. My chuckle soon turns into a laugh as the look on the teacher’s face starts to mirror those of her parents. They use every imaginable technique to get her to stand still: her father hisses a few impatient words at her, her mother slips her some candy and her teacher attempts to coax her with sugar-coated words. Nothing works. The child still fidgets, still smiles with an impish sparkle in her eye and now turns to chat with the pianist. Despite her misbehavior, her energy is infectious. Soon, the whole room is chuckling along with me as they watch this small child win her battle against three adults.

Suddenly, the teacher jumps up triumphantly; she has thought of a solution. Digging in her pocket, she finally produces a shiny, new quarter. If the girl can stand still on the quarter until she is finished playing, she says, she may keep it. The child’s eyes light up and she finally lifts the one-eighth sized violin up to her shoulders, almost dropping it as she tucks it under her chin. Her teacher, already anticipating problems, kneels close by, ready to catch the instrument if it falls. The girl brings the bow up and draws it unsteadily cross the strings. I catch her parents wincing as the first few notes of “Twinkle, Twinkle” squeak from the instrument. Within a few minutes, the song is over, and she bows triumphantly to the applause of the humored audience. Forgetting about the violin, she prances back to where her parents are sitting, tightly grasping the shiny quarter in her small fist. They smile proudly at her and take the violin from her hands, while at the same time wondering if their daughter will ever change.

I jump awake. At my side the clock reads 7:00 a.m., May 15th, 2008. It is the morning of my last concert at the String Academy of Wisconsin. Remembering my dream of myself as a child, I laugh. I remember my Beginner days at the String Academy in 1995. I had started off with no hope or talent and had slowly grown year by year, steadily advancing through each level of musicality. Now a leader in the esteemed Violin Virtuosi, I find it hard to picture myself as that restless little girl of the past who seemed to have no future in music.

Ideally, the young children who will open the concert today will continue studying violin even though it means sacrificing every Saturday morning for the rest of their childhood years. The skills they will gain are priceless. I know from experience that with this talent in music they will grow into focused anddisciplined young adults. I no longer have to be bribed with a quarter to pick up my instrument. I get out of bed and unpack by violin, preparing for the next hour and a half of diligent practice. I am ready and determined to take on the toughest violin concerto. I am ready to practice the fastest notes for hours and to play passionately. But most of all, I know that after thirteen years at the String Academy of Wisconsin, I am ready to approach the future not only as a violinist, but as an undergraduate student eager to make a difference in the world.

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