Can't thank you guys enough for eviscerating my first draft. I tried to be humbler here and make more subtle changes. Please be abusive.
I was a clumsy kid when I first started playing the violin. I was four when I unleashed horrific screeches throughout the house, accompanied by white clouds of rosin dust. In time, cacophony gave way to music. Scratch upon scratch, I gradually peeled away each blemish, until I developed a refined purity in my sound. This is how I first learned to improve myself, and for much of my life, it is through the violin that I found intellectual and emotional guidance.
Everything about violin playing is about balance. Yes, physical balance is essential: your feet must be flat, your weight must be centered, your fingers must find the right posture at the right time. This can be taught to almost anyone with a passion for the violin. But it will take a good deal of experience to find the right balance between the emotion and intellect. Listen only to your heart, and you will miss notes and neglect structural features in the music. Rely entirely on cognition, and your interpretation is at risk of being dry and uninteresting to others and, more importantly, to yourself. This capacity often distinguishes the good from the great. I still struggle to find this balance with the violin.
I have also sought a similar kind of balance in my life. At [university], I focused my research on ancient philosophy and dissected the arguments of Lucretius in my thesis. I was fond of cold, logical thinking. However, at the same time, I never lost sight of what my emotions were telling me. I took a film class and did some creative work on campus. I played my heart out in various musical ensembles. I also devoted some time to non-profit work that dealt with education reform, an issue I have a strong emotional attachment to. I didn't want to be an icy intellectual without compassion. I wanted to be rational without compromising my feelings.
One of the most important developments in my playing was my first encounter with Bach, who is still my favorite composer. The violin is most often a melodic instrument: it captures a single musical line with a sustained elegance that few instruments can match. For technical reasons, it is rare to find two or more lines being played on the violin at the same time. So it was revolutionary to me when I opened up Bach's Partitas for the first time and found up to four simultaneous voices written for solo violin in a fugue. Bach first presented a single musical line by itself. As the line continued, a second line was suddenly introduced, until a third and even a fourth line were added on to create harmonies of jaw-dropping beauty. I realized that the finest music took interesting individual elements and threaded them together into an even more elegant and meaningful whole.
Bach changed the way I thought about texts as a classics major. I isolated themes and their permutations in the Aeneid and paid close attention to the effects of their synthesis. I pinpointed premises in De Rerum Natura and studied how they interacted to form an argument as a whole. I analyzed Cicero's Pro Sestio and admired each individual element, but always kept a close ear to the combined effect of emotional and logical appeals. I wanted to learn how great writers not only created each wonderful idea, but also combined them into powerful large-scale concepts. I am excited to approach the law in this same contrapuntal mode.
It is these virtues, all sparked by a piece of wood under my fingers, that I hope to refine in law school. I refuse to be a mind without a conscience, and will approach my studies with passion and self-awareness. I refuse to be an pedant who gets buried in isolated facts, and will work on being a reader who actively synthesizes the elements and finds new meaning in the whole. As my bow arm works away at the strings, honing my sound, I wish to work away at my imperfections to find the purest and most honest version of myself.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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