"When you're in an environment that you haven't made friends yet, I think it's important to participate in the conversations that are happening around you, to laugh with those people and to, you know, introduce yourself and say 'Hi'!" -Nina

Hi, I'm Jen Landis, founder of Pincurl Girls. And this is the GIRLBRAVE podcast. In this episode, I chatted with Nina, a high school girl who has been playing violin for most of her life. She told me about violin competitions and her tricks on getting herself to practice. She also recently joined her high school cheer team after a few years of competitive cheer. I can't wait for you to meet her. So here we go. 

Hi, Nina. How are you? I'm doing well. How are you? 


Thank you so much for being here today. I wanted to ask you a little bit about yourself. How old are you in? What grade will you be in next year?

I'm 17 years old. I am heading into my senior year of high school. I loved cheerleading in playing the violin and giving that environment for other women to be positive. 

How long have you been playing the violin? 

I'd say I started probably like fourth, fifth grade transitioning from all of that days first learning, like getting to meet all my friends and competing with. It has been just a really incredible journey. 

So do you have any favorite memories of playing the violin that you can share with us? 

I starting out, I met my best friend in elementary school through the violin in an orchestra, and we've gotten a lot of opportunities to travel together. We went to Chicago, our sophomore year of high school, really incredible to not only, you know, be with those different professors that were guiding us like musically, but to like, get to experience that with your best friends, just around Chicago and the city that you're not around a lot. And I guess on your own, a little bit with your friends. 

So what does it look like for you day to day with your practicing violin? 

During the school year? It's a lot of preparing for, you know, concerts, different playing test and, you know, different state oriented competitions. And then I'd say like over the summer I worked privately with a separate instructor that kind of just like teaches me little things about technique. And I kind of get that one on one rather than a larger Kestrel setting, which is great because I can get that feedback, adjust to me personally, but like practice maybe the best at it. Cause I have to balance it with cheer practice and all that other stuff that I work and it can be kind of stressful. But do you get practice in? 

I have a daughter who's 11 and she is taking viola at school hates to practice. What advice would you give someone that's starting out? That just is like, I don't need to do this. I don't want to do this. And then how you've learned over the years and to accept it? 

It's been a ongoing problem with me since I was a kid. I played piano as a kid and we were homeschooled and my mom was always like, I'm gonna set the kitchen timer for 30, 45 minutes and you're just gonna go practice. And I would always just find myself just like waste 45 minutes of my time. And it comes from just lighting like that passion and insight. 

And you still want to practice to like, see an end goal and be like, have like a, you know, an IOL or something that you see this famous violinist doing all these complicated techniques and whatnot. And you have to be like, okay, well I want to make my music feel, having give that I guess, emotion to it instead of just hypothetically playing your instrument. And you have to understand that it does take work, which is the downside, right? 

So rewarding yourself along the way. You know, giving those practice goals has been a really big advantage. And then I guess being in high school was the time where I really decided that I want to get a little more serious about it because there were these competitions, I guess we have our districts and state and all that. And it relies solely on your audition to become a part of this group. 

And if you want that bad, then you will practice. You will put that into it. And you know, that's what started it for me because I was at 11 years old. Also not that into it. I think I just did it to give myself something to do. Cause I didn't have that at the time. 

Did you ever want to quit playing violin? 

I think what kept me with it was that I had come this far, you know, I don't plan on playing the violin in college just cause they know, I think that's gonna be the end of the chapter for me, whether I pick it up later in life, I have no idea, but there were times where I think that people's expectations became a little too much for me because I hadn't even with my private instructor, I had my friends who were also extremely competitive at their instruments. 

And then I had, you know, my professors and my parents and I didn't want to let any of those people down, but they had these, they held me very accountable, right. They expected these great things from me and I didn't always feel like that's what I wanted. So it was, it was difficult to want to stay with it. And to just like, be like, well quit. I don't want to do this anymore. 

But I realized that without that environment, without those people, without the structure that I gives my lives, I would just be mostly floating through life and just going to classes and going home and doing what I don't know. I gave me an environment and it's stressful at times, but I think it's, it's helped me a lot to say, okay, what I, what do I want? And how do I separate my goals and my expectations from other people? 

What would be something that you would tell yourself when you're dealing with those two different thoughts where, Hey, I want this from me versus I need to do this for them? 

So that took a lot of practice. I was struggling a lot with other things, both life, you know, to first year of high school and I was 15 and all that. And I used, there were a lot of nights where I was like, God, I just don't feel like I measure up to competition. And I had to look at myself in the mirror and think I am okay with, sorry. You know, all those practice videos that we've taken, I can look back on those. And I think, wow, I really haven't grouped. It might not feel like it. Cause that's like, you know, all that progress talking so slowly and you know, over a long period of time and you just forget how much you really improved. But seeing that and being like I am doing well for me, I don't need to compare myself. 

I compare myself to my best friend or you know, other people in my classes who have been doing this maybe longer for me, or this is more important to them. You may want to do this as their career. And that's, that's not me. I'm doing this for fun. It's still at the level where I want to be competitive. I want to be challenged, but it's not the end all be all of everything that I do. 

What does competition look like? 

So depending on whether it's an audition to make like a premium orchestra or something where they collect everyone's best auditions from a certain area and they create the best orchestra they can. That looks like waking up super early, after a year of a practicing excerpts and all scales and all that. And then you go into a room, they can't see you and then you play your excerpts and then it's like, you get those results in a day, two days. 

Those are my worst nightmares. I don't like when everything that I would work with [inaudible]. But I understand that's why they do it. A competition more, I'm not competing to get into an orchestra and I'm just competing for like a solo trophy, whatever, you know, I perform like a solo with an accompanist and you rehearse that for anywhere from like six to 12 months. 

And then, you know, you get a certain rate and you get to move on to a different high level of competition against other kids that also did well regionally. And it's really, that's just like a personal growth type thing. I've always found that less important to me doing well so holistically because I'm not as violent as I am very much like good violinists. And that's, that's just a choice that I make to prioritize that, but stressful all around. 

I had no idea. That's cool. I learned something new today. Tell me a little bit more about your cheer. What is, what is that environment like? Is it like the shows we see on TV? 

I guess it can be a little bit when I was, I would say three years old, I started sharing and I'll start gym and you know, so that's like you do your two and a half minute routine practice that. And then at the end of the year, you're, you're doing all these competitions and you're hitting against other also games. And that's like a collection of like rigorous tumbling, scenting and dance. That is something that's just been in my family. 

And then I stopped doing that for financial reasons because it is very expensive to be there, but I had stopped chilling and we got to dance for about eight years and I decided to stop doing that because I fell out of it's a lot of the same reasons that I maybe decided I don't want to do orchestra and I almost quit because I felt that pressure from other people.

And I thought this isn't what I want. And so I actually ended up putting dance and then I still kind of wanted that physical activity in my life. And I still wanted it, know all the parts that come out of that. I guess you'd call them really sports maybe, but they're like, that's what I've always been drawn to since I was a kid. And I just remember being at a basketball game and thinking, I really don't feel like I belong in the stands. You know, it wasn't an environment that I was like getting excited for. 

I wouldn't really go to football games or basketball games, but I thought maybe I'll give like sideline cheerleading. And I started doing that. My sophomore, I realized I wanted to try out my sophomore year. So I only been doing this for about a year, but it was tough to kind of be like, I want to join into this sort of group of girls that have been doing this since middle school.

And my training's very different, you know, it's like, you still have that environment and whatnot, but it's for someone and it's not for trophies for the people in the crowd it's routine, it's for, you know, raising experience, which wasn't what my cheerleading was about. And I didn't know how to like, take that and put that into what I was about to go do. And you know, there's all these people already have their friends. So, why would I be contributing to stuff that I haven't had, I need to push that out of my head and just go, go for it anyway. 

Even if they don't like me or they don't want to be around me or let me into their groups and I'm still doing this for me, because this is something that I wanted, I'm going to give it a shot. Right. But yeah, a lot of that looks like, you know, going to games, doing assemblies. And I think we have like about one competition that Farsi. And so we have like raids and all that, but it's very much oriented around lifting up the school and representing them in a good way, which was very different for me. I'd never done that before.

Trying out for us, a new team and a group of girls that have been together would be quite nerve wracking.

I walked in on that first day of tryouts and I just felt like they were all like sitting there talking together. They had relationships with the coaches already. And I was like, God, I don't know where I fit into all of it. I consider just walking out and being like, Nope, not today, but I'm sat there and it's going to be uncomfortable right now. Like now I've done. It just came like you gotta like get through that, like weird. And I'm meeting people face. I'm not like really close with these people yet. And it's hard, but I made a lot of friends that I really value. And if I hadn't, you know, sucked it up and just let that uncomfortable feeling go. I wouldn't have those people in my life and I wouldn't have the outlet that I do now that I couldn't see myself living without. Yeah.

So that's very brave, this podcast is called has called GIRLBRAVE. Tell me, what is your definition of being brave? And do you think you are brave?  Which I think you are.

I would not have considered my self brave a few years ago. A lot of that comes with self confidence and being able to confront situations on, or be confident with yourself and around with other people. And I, I never felt like that, but a lot of it was tricking other people in thinking I was in fooling myself into thinking in it. So I just think I'm brave now, not only just in the respective of going to school, you know, my family, my close friends. 

So I try to take that and stride and be brave for other people. And for myself, I think bravery is trying things and going outside of your comfort zone and meeting new people, which I wasn't, I was very opposed to doing that by default. And I think that a lot of people are because it's so easy to stay in your box and your bubble, and just never put yourself out there that you really have no idea what the world can offer you.

If you don't and you just, you're gonna not experience so many wonderful things and meet so many people that are going to make your life better. You know, that's when I asked myself, what does that mean to me? Like if I didn't have these people in my life, I didn't have these people around or my family or my friends and these activities that I do. My life's really wouldn't be much. I wouldn't have something worth living for, and that's what those people and activities have brought to my life drives and importance. 

How do you meet new people? Like, let me rephrase that. What's a good way to be friends, someone new, you know?

I think teachers will often say like, go look for the person sitting by themselves at lunch. And I never, I don't know if this is just like my school. I've never seen anybody doing that.

Cause I think we're all pretty good about, you know, making friends and giving those people that aren't comfortable making friends and reaching out to them yourself. But when you're in an environment that you haven't made friends yet, I think it's important to like participate in the conversations that are happening around you, to laugh with those people and to, you know, introduce yourself and say hi, whether they know you or not just from being around, it's really important to reach out to those people or on social media as well. It's never going to be easy. 

I think that's the point is you have to work for those relationships that you value, but just to go out of your comfort zone, even if your body tells you, no, I don't want to I'm scared. What if they don't like me? You know, if you don't put yourself out there, you never know.

So you go up to people, you know, say, hi, meet new people. If you're the new person, it's funny how your brain tells you not to, even though that's acceptance and you know, camaraderie is what it craves. Very true. So during these weird times that we're in right now, there's a lot of uncertainty and stuff. How do you stay positive during your days? I have made a big effort to reach out to those people around me every single day is like another surprise. 

It's not always a good one, but I remember those first weeks of, you know, not getting to be with my friends and not getting to participate in those activities. My wife just felt very closed off and I had to do what I could in my own environment to see myself active and not just laying in bed. So, you know, I work out on my own a little bit and then I like started doing some, like there are these things going around.

And so I had a good time doing that and just space time, and people are seeing them six feet apart with masks and whatnot. It really has made a big difference, whether it be like getting some fresh air outside of my backyard or, you know, seeing my friends and, and working out it's, it's changed my outlook on it entirely. I choose to believe that like it's a silver lining where I get to see my family a little bit more. I get to be around my parents and my dog, which I wouldn't be, but not. 

So I'm trying to like just kind of take it day by day as like, this is a blessing to kind of get to move a little bit slower every now and again, as opposed to the fast paced life I was used to, and I still have my job, I still go to work on the weekends. And so I guess I'm not as socially distance as everybody else. I do see people's faces everyday and I do communicate with them and that's made all the difference to me.

What things will you want to keep doing once we get back to our new normal that you've learned through the slowing down period?

Definitely taking a minute to just like three. I find that when things get a little bit too crazy for me or too hectic, I, the first thing to go on priorities is taking good care of myself or, you know, eating healthily or, you know, seeing my friends and like a relaxed sort of environment where I'm not worried about a test coming up or a competition. And that's, that's something that you have to value the most in those situations because, you know, that's when you start to lose sight of what you're doing now, you just get clogged up in your, and your work and you can't really, you don't take a break to, you know, let your mind breathe, just enjoy life. So just taking that, like meditative steps has really helped me with the stress of not having anything to do. And I hope that going forward when there are things to do. Yes, I can't wait for those days, although I've enjoyed the slowing down. Definitely. 

Well, goodness, thank you so much for taking the time today to talk to me, this is very inspiring.

Yes I can't believe that you guys were reaching out to me and I was like, I've been following you guys for a long time and I was really impressed with what you were doing, uplifting those young girls because I, at the time that was me, ya know. And I remember how hard that was and just having that, you know, environment of ladies that were really listening to each other. It was great to see and I'm so happy to be part of that.

Great. Well, thank you so much. Well, your story will definitely inspire other girls. Thank you so much. 

Yeah, you're welcome. 

Have a great day and a great weekend this weekend.

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