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Used Violins, New Harps


My older son is about to graduate to a concert harp. We're going to return his old Troubador harp to his old teacher go look for a new harp. His new teacher wants to come along and help him find the right new harp. Harps have a strange tendency to be rather picky about who plays them.

My younger son has graduated to a half-size violin. We're selling his smaller violins, which we bought new and have gotten him a very nice used violin that has a mellow, reassuring sound. This old violin has been making music before my son was even born. It sounds like it knows what it's doing.

In the meantime, I'm wrestling with shopping for a new anything. I had to play piano and oboe as a kid because we had those sitting around the house. I didn't think that instruments were anything you went out and actually bought at a store. I just thought you picked up whatever was lying around and then were forced to learn to play it. We had guitars and complicated-looking mandolins and battered violins and a cello, too. So why did my mother insist on the oboe and then complain when I practiced, saying it sounded like a cat in heat? Later she would acquire an exploded harp, a dented sousaphone and a marimba, but she never insisted I learn those.

All those silent instruments. I still have my oboe, but my lips, which are scarred, no longer have the sensitivity for that fiddly little reed. It fascinates my children though. They take it from its dusty case and assemble the wooden tube with its mysterious valves and keys. But they chose their instruments. They never claim to want to learn to play the oboe. And Lord knows, I'm not going to make them.

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