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    Posted December 16, 2013 by
    Langhorne, Pennsylvania
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The written word: Your personal essays

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    A Dream Denied, A Vision Fulfilled

    My father Solly’s family was part of the great wave of immigrants that crashed onto America’s shores in the late 1800s. There was barely enough money to feed and clothe the children, much less pay for music lessons. But Solly vowed his children would not be so disadvantaged.

    Indeed, when I was 9, after first having studied the piano for 3 years, my father asked Mr. Herman Miroff, a local teacher and professional musician, to teach me the violin. The first order of business was the purchase of a magnificent German instrument crafted in 1877. Its back was made from a single piece of flame maple while the top was constructed of unblemished bearclaw spruce. The varnish was deep reddish-brown in color. A quality bow made of Brazilian pernambuco wood completed the ensemble.

    Mr. Miroff came to our home in Milwaukee, WI, Tuesday afternoons during my grade school years. The lessons culminated in my playing a solo at graduation. I was accompanied on the piano by Mrs. Bernice Singer Baron, a graduate of The Julliard School. Solly soon insisted I study the violin with her.

    I worked with Mrs. Baron throughout my high school years, during which time I was concertmaster of the school’s orchestra. And in 1956, when I auditioned for the Milwaukee All-City Senior Orchestra, I tied for concertmaster.

    Solly was euphoric. He religiously attended every rehearsal and enthusiastically offered endless encouragement and suggestions to me after each night’s rehearsal. It was apparent his dream was for me to become a concert violinist.

    Alas, Solly’s dream never was realized. In the end, my love of shortwave radio won the day, and after graduation, I was off to the University of Wisconsin to study electrical engineering. Forgotten were the beautiful violin and all the hard work that culminated in that one, final concert with 10,000 people in attendance. Oh, Solly did raise the issue of the violin from time to time in the years that followed, but we never dwelled on it. Years later, I was told he despondently asked Mr. Miroff to find a buyer for the instrument.

    It was 50 years before the subject of the violin came up again…this time with my wife Susan. We were sitting in London’s Regent’s Park when out of the blue she asked: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” She knew when it came time to step back from work I would need something to keep me occupied.

    Our conversation turned to my early days in school, to my father’s love of music, and…to the violin. Would it even be possible to play again after all these years?

    Upon returning home, I purchased a modest German fiddle made around the turn of the 19th century. A call to a local music store identified a man—John Aumann (left in the picture; the author is on the right)—who not only played the violin professionally but also, who had more than 37 years of relevant teaching experience.

    We immediately set out on a journey to help me to recapture the skills I once possessed…to regain mastery of the finger board and the bowing techniques that had come so easily to me as a young man. I was amazed at how quickly my old skills returned.

    Within a year, under John’s instruction, I not only was playing major compositions but also, had secured a seat in the Bryn Athyn (PA) Orchestra, one of the oldest community orchestras in the nation.

    Solly would have been proud. His dream was denied, but from it, the vision I created was fulfilled. All of which show life does indeed offer second chances, and age should never be a barrier to setting goals.

    Theodore Jerome Cohen is the author of seven novels, including Full Circle: A Dream Denied, A Vision Fulfilled. You can visit him at

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