How Did You Choose Your Instrument (or Did Your Instrument Choose You)?!?

The Face of a Child:

When I was ten years of age, the conductor and violin teacher of our school orchestra, Mr. Robert Martin, came to visit our elementary public school in Cincinnati. He demonstrated just about every instrument that could be played, but especially the array of classical orchestral instruments.

The face of a child is always very honest.  During the presentation that day, something on my face must have caught Mr. Martin's attention.  Afterwards, he approached me directly about playing a violin.  I'd already knew that I was in love with the instrument, because I had heard it played SO EXPRESSIVELY in my parent's American folk, bluegrass and country music, and in countless soundtracks. He prompted me to ask my parents about buying me a violin, but he also offered to lend me a violin if I wanted to play!!!

I asked my dad about buying a violin, but I didn't know if he could. He surprised me by purchasing a violin for my eleventh birthday present. It must have been a real hardship for our family.  Looking back on it, I estimate that my dad must have labored for about 200 or 300 hours to pay for it.  Oops, and I wanted to convert it into some fiddle playing right away!

Sadly, things got busy, and my fiddle sat lonely for many years as I became a busy teen and adult...

The fiddle found me again, so I got it back out of it's case about two years ago.  It's been helping me have the time of my life!  So, I like to think that my fiddle chose me!!!


We must have been attracted to play the instruments we love for a reason...

Maybe you found your instrument under a parent's guidance and tutelage?

Maybe the instrument "runs in your family"?

Maybe you witnessed an amazing performance?

Maybe you are influenced by a legendary musical icon or hero?

Maybe you don't have much recollection about the reason? 


It would be interesting to know YOUR musical instrument story.  Thanks in advance for sharing!!!

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I knew from birth (I thought) that I was destined to be a drummer.  So naturally, my parents enrolled me in the fife and drum corps at age 9 as a drummer.  So happened that there were twice as many drummer recruits as there were fifers, and 2 months into it I was handed a fife and told, "you're a fifer now."  Was handed a tin whistle a year later and taught ornamentation and some Irish and Scottish tunes.  A couple years later was handed a 5-keyed ebonite band flute and put into a quartet.  Picked up modern Boehm flute around the same time and started learning jazz by ear.  Pretty much faded away from the music from my mid twenties, until 2 years ago, months before turning fifty, I bought an Irish flute during a "spell" of unemployment.  Got heavily into sessions the day I got the flute and haven't turned back.  I recalled enough tunes from my youth to be able to take a turn at starting a set or two in sessions early on.  Moved out to Denver where there are a fair number of good sessions and good players and have really put my heart into advancing my playing and loving it.  It really has re-captured something special for me that I had "locked away" nearly 30 years ago and has been one of the best things (second to my beautiful family) I have done in my life. Its a special genre of music, representing a culture and history that has great influence and I love being a very small part of keeping that going.
at age 50 I suddenly had the desire to learn to play an instrument, still dont know why,  up till then I couldnt even play a radio very well. What made me think I could master something this complicated at this late date I still dont know. Having always liked traditional Irish music I thought why not try the Tin Whistle how hard could that be. Right? Yeah well not about to let not knowing what I was doing stop me I ordered one off the Internet. Luckly it came with an instruction book with tab, since I had never learned to read music. After about 2 months of practice I finally learned to play one or two basic songs to the point where they were vaugely recoginizable. That was 6 years ago and I have progerssed on to the Low Whistle and Flute, which is another story. So if I had to guess I'd say that the Instrument chose me.

Hi Bill,

Oh yes Bill, tin whistles can appear deceptively unsophisticated, as does the traditional flute!  Wind instruments are so magical, because there are so many striking sounds and moods that can be produced by a potentially inexpensive and apparently "simply" designed and "simply" played instrument:

Here is one of my favorite whistle tunes played by Finbar Furey on whistle~

The Lonesome Boatman ~ Finbar and Eddie Furey

It's also heartwarmng to know you have made this amazing journey in just six mid-life years!  Maybe the magical uilleann pipes will choose you next ;)!!!


My Grandfathers, 1 was an accomplished fiddler, and fyfe player, the other loved to sing, and he was right from Belfast, I miss his songs especially at Christmas, I have always had a love of traditional Irish music "pappy" used to wake us up by blasting "his" music, I loved it. Once I got to secondary school I took music and was very drawn to the flute and picolo mainly because I loved Jethro Tull music at that time, I played for 4 years, Now aged 50, I bought a cheap tinwhistle 1.5 years ago and a book, I am struggling along, learning new songs, and have acquired 12-14 whistles and several books, I play every time I have a few minutes, this music stays in your heart for life. Thanks to Mike Orme I found a group of people who love it as much as I do.

Hi Marjorie,

It's a very sweet story, so thanks for sharing it.  It seems like your whistles chose you, mainly because of the love of music transmitted to you from your grandfathers. I'll be thinking of you and your grandfather's songs this Christmas.  Don't you wish you could go back into time to hear him singing for you again? I would love to go with you to hear him! It was a simple Christmas gift  for you that will never quit giving.

There are many members on TradConnect who picked up learning an instruments well into their adulthoods.  It's always inspirational and heartwarming to hear.

PS. My girlfriends and I used to listen to Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull too :0!!!  I think we would've been fans of The Bothy Band too, if we would've known about them! 

PSS. I just chatted with Michael tonight. I call him the "TradConnect ambassador".


I would love to go back to those simpler times Connie, I have tried to pass on the love of Irish music, my grandson seems to like the whistle, my daughters know when they get in my car they will have to listen to "my" music, I'm sure it's getting into their blood as well, my daughter and her fiance are going to Ireland for their honeymoon, now I just need to find a way to sneak into their luggage, lol

It's the weirdest thing Marjorie... I do truly believe this music can be in your blood whether you were exposed to it as a child or not.  I'm glad to hear that your grandchildren are hearing it as youngsters!  I hope they will take an interest, or at least be a fan to carry on tradition!

My parents are both from Appalachian coal mining families.  We have fiddle or flute players in our family!  The fortunate ones got a little bit of public school classical training as children.  I learned about Irish traditional music only two years ago, and I almost broke down and cried when I heard it - I was always trying to play something very close to it as a child without ever knowing that it was Irish traditional music.  It wasn't classical, yet it wasn't the Bluegrass or country I'd heard. It really almost scares me!  It just pops right out of me without much effort. People may laugh at the idea, but I think this form of music can be innate in those of Irish descendancy.

It's great to see your photo too :)!

Some songs come very easy to me, others are very difficult, I think it's because I heard some of them so much as a child, Some songs make me cry, and I get an overwhelming desire to get on a plane bound for Ireland, I have told my kids to cremate me and take my ashes to Ireland when my time comes. It is the music in me that makes me feel this way, and I will get to Ireland one way or another. It's like a magnet that I cannot resist.

My "first" instrument was guitar because I wanted to be like my country heroes, Roy Orbeson and Johnny Cash.  Actually this instrument was my bread and butter for a lot of years.  But alas there was one instrument that evaded me because of the horror stories I heard...VIOLIN.  I did study classical for 4 yrs at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto but stopped because life got in the way.   In the interim I began playing Tenor banjo and really liked it.

Later in years the guitar is still my bread and butter, but the instrument that chose me I would have to say is TENOR BANJO.  The violin/fiddle is the second chooser.  These are 2 instruments that I love to hear played well and love to play.  I guess it is stepping away from the herd so to speak. As a music teacher it seems that everyone wants to play guitar...I ask folks...what about the poor poor banjo and fiddle, and their brothers and sisters the Mandolins of all sizes?  I protest!!!  :)

When it comes to music, it's Irish hands down.  My grandmother was from County Dublin and came to Canada in 1910.  When she babysat us you would hear her singing all the songs she learned as a child in the village and passed down from other family members.  I guess it is in the blood...half Irish...half English...but the Irish boils.


Any how...that's my 2 pennies worth.  HAVE A GREAT DAY

Hi Albert,

The true multi-instrumentalists always fascinate me, and you are definitely in that category!

Generally, I think most Americans and Canadian musicians will start out on guitars (or pianos, if the mother is urging), and not usually Irish traditional instruments like fiddles or whistles, unless you are listening to Irish trad at home with your parents and your family hasn't been in North America for several generations.  I made the connection between my down home Appalachian and Irish music myself... little did I know other people feel it too!!!

I can definitely see why the young guys would choose the guitar... as a teen and young woman, I can vividly remember feeling electrified when I would hear really great rock and roll guitar :)!  

It's heartwarming to know you love the banjo and fiddle too! Are you sticking with the fiddle?  I am fiddling, but my favorite instrument at the moment is the beautiful uilleann pipes (alas, I have enough troubles with whistles, so I know better than to touch try any wild pipes)!!!

I enjoyed reading... thanks for your two pennies Albert!!!

Hi all,

It's lovely to hear how much the music means to you as regards your Irish roots, here I am, in Ireland and I feel very lucky! (despite the economic uncertainties!!) This morning I took our two dogs for a long walk in the surrounding countryside through the wind and a bit of rain but it was so fresh and green that it was truly uplifting. I bid you all a hearty Irish welcome to come and visit our collective homeland and play some music with us.

In the meantime, as I know cash is a problem for all, let us enjoy Ireland through the music with the help of this site Tradconnect. You have inspired me to write a new tune.......must go.


Hi Russ!

Your story made me wonder why you might have been selected to play a woodwind?  Did you ever wonder why? Do you think it was a random event? I guess kids will try just about anything!  It must have been a blessing.  It is interesting about your very gradual progression through woodwinds and genres into the Irish flute!  I hope it will always be a part of your life.


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