Last night I had a dream about playing a battered old violin in a pawnshop. I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it. It was dark in the pawnshop, and the violin was kind of scratched up and the bow needed work, too -- the hair on it was coming off and it only inconsistently made the strings sound. In the dream, to try it out, I was playing the opening melody from "Fiddler on the Roof".
I don't actually play violin. When I was 8 years old, though, I really wanted to. That summer, my mom had checked out a recording of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, "Eroica", from the library and brought it home to play for me. I'm pretty sure it was the first time I'd heard a symphony. I remember lying down in front of the record player listening to it and reading the liner notes on the back of the LP sleeve. It was from listening to that record that I first got inspired to try being a musician. And I wanted to be a violinist.
That autumn I was in 4th grade and I could be part of the public school music program. This before Proposition 13 was voted in, gutting California arts in schools for all time. The music teacher at my elementary school was Sabine Hersh. At a presentation in the school library, she showed large photographs of the instruments in the concert band and told us about them. I still wanted to play the violin at that point, but it wasn't available to me...I'm not clear exactly why. (No orchestra at the school? Parents didn't want to hear a beginner violinist practicing?) In any case, of the instruments I learned about that day, I chose the flute, I think because it most resembled the violin in its range.
My freshman year in college I was in the pit orchestra for "Fiddler on the Roof". But I didn't play that opening violin lick. That job went to the wonderful violinist Benito Cortez, who went on to play violin all over the place. Google him and you'll get all kinds of results!