March 30th, 2010 6:06 pm

Janice Commentz, Viola Player

Janice Commentz. Violist, Teacher, Mentor, Friend.

I’m not really good at FaceBook. I set up a page, and just let is stay there dormant for a long, long time. My 14-year old daughter was looking over my shoulder at the computer the other night and said something to the effect of, “Why don’t you answer that message?” I was in a fog and asked her what she was talking about.

I had a friend request. Janice Commentz.

Who the heck is Janice Commentz? It took me a good ten minutes to figure it out.

I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been playing violin longer than most of the parents of the girls on my daughter’s soccer team have been alive. My daughter firmly believes that Antonio Stradivari was a classmate of mine and that the music I like was used to lull Ben Franklin to sleep while he was still an infant . . . and that I probably played it for him.

And Janice asked, “Are you still playing the violin?”

She really knew me…but I sure couldn’t remember her. Her picture wasn’t really of any help whatsoever. But then the light came on.

Janice Commentz was my Home Room teacher when I was in eighth grade. She was the chorus director for the junior high school I attended. It was pretty obvious that I played violin, since I carried the case around with me. Some time during the year it came to light that Miss Commentz played the viola.

After leaving eighth grade I lost contact with Miss Commentz until Spring of my Sophomore year in high school. We put on the play Kiss Me Kate. We only had one decent violist in the district, so the conductor recruited Miss Commentz to play with us. It was one of several times that I had the opportunity to play with adults while still in high school. It gives a student a somewhat different perspective on ensemble work. The adults come into the situation with skills somewhat in place and with the music already worked out. True sectional work rather than instruction occurred at rehearsals. It was fun.

I attended several junior high school concerts while I was a Junior and a Senior…my sister Pam sang in the chorus. I believe I only played with Miss Commentz in one more production. A local amateur opera company formed for the purpose of performing Die Fledermaus while I was in college. Many of the members of the orchestra were high school students, and I was one of the “experienced” players. It felt strange, and yet made me feel really good that they looked up to me, and that my teachers felt good enough about my performance to invite me to play.

I haven’t had any contact with Miss Commentz since then…December of …well, if you have to know the year…it was 1972. (Can it really be that long ago?) It’s great to look back across the time and connect with folks who were “instrumental” in forming your personality and developing your musical taste. I probably won’t get the chance to see Miss Commentz again. We live 1600 miles apart. But I’ll sure keep in touch with her via FaceBook!

Violin: Living Through Playing? Growing Through Playing? Remembering Through Playing? And Realizing That Those Things That Really Matter Are Timeless.

Thanks for contacting me, Miss Commentz…or should I say Janice? Nah, Miss Commentz just feels right.

Art Haule

Remember, With Violin (Yes, and with Viola too) The Verb We Use is Play

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