My dad taught himself the violin when he was already an adult (around the age of 20, I think), after the ban on Western music in China was lifted in the 70s. He’s always loved classical music, and mentioned once that he kept an illicit recording of Beethoven’s Emperor concerto stashed away that he couldn’t get enough of. I always thought that was a really interesting side of my dad that he kept kind of hidden, and it’s definitely why he exposed us to so much great classical music as kids and later was so able to understand and support my decision to go to college and grad school for music.
When we were kids, he would ride his bike to the university where he was a math professor. One day, he was shoved off his bike and mugged, breaking his left shoulder really badly. He didn’t play violin for a long time, about 8-10 years or so. Then when I was in high school, he started playing again for fun – we would play sonatas and other smaller pieces together, and eventually he joined the community orchestra in Virginia Beach and started teaching younger students. It seemed really frustrating for him at first, having a hard time getting to high positions because his shoulder wasn’t flexible enough and still hurt sometimes. I think it still bothers him a little bit, but over time he’s gotten a lot better and just seems so happy to be doing something for his own enjoyment and teaching kids, which is also something he loves to do. I am so excited that we’ve gotten to the point where I can wake up one day and watch a video of my dad performing on YouTube!