[Note: As I commented on yesterday , this is the first note of a series on the viola. It provides a glimpse of another side of my involvement with music to my involvement with underground music  that I commented on earlier.]
Some people are born to be musicians, and some come about the fate entirely accidentally. For me, it is the second option. In my entire life, the viola is the only instrument I have ever practiced formally, and even that instrument I do not play particularly well—well enough to be a member of an ensemble group or community orchestra, but not a particularly talented musician.
Nonetheless, though I am an accidental violist, the tale of how I became a violist is a worthwhile one nonetheless. During my years in elementary school I was a treble, one of those boys blessed (or cursed) with an exceptionally high singing voice. I would sing super-high notes from patriotic songs (as my elementary school was wont to perform) about hills and dales and caissons rolling along, or the halls of Montezuma, the shores of Tripoli, or some other such thing. However, as it would turn out, during the sixth grade came a fateful moment that greatly influenced my future as a musician. My voice changed, and during the year my voice, sounding rather like the green tree frogs that croaked on the windows outside of the rented single-wide trailer where my family lived, was quite unsuitable for singing. Obviously, something would need to be done to preserve my interest in music.
What happened was a chance event. Mrs. Moffa was the name of the middle-aged orchestra teacher for both Marshall Junior High School (which was then Plant City’s seventh grade school) and Lincoln Elementary, where I attended (which was Plant City’s sixth grade school at that time). Both schools were in the rougher part of town, in the slums (at least, such slums as a small town like Plant City can possess), and had racial tensions that I was occasionally and unwittingly involved in. At any rate, this woman showed off the four instruments of the string orchestra: the violin, the viola, the cello, and the bass. I was hooked, and chose to play the only instrument I had never heard of—the viola.
It turns out that among the eleven year olds at Lincoln Elementary School, I was the only one of them who was interested in the viola. Somehow among my peers, there were twenty-seven violinists and only one violist. What accounts for this disparity, I am not entirely sure, but it has something to do with the fact that most people are not attracted to the unknown and obscure, while for an unknown reason I happen to be. It is one of the accidents of life that I have learned to appreciate over time, even if I have never been able to understand it.
With that, I became a violist, the initiate to mysteries profound and intriguing concerning the lives of classical musicians. Of course, at the time I was a pimply and freckled kid with a mass of undisciplined blond hair. I still had much to learn, which I soon would.