By Erica Miner
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
— Henri Bergson
During my 21 years as a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, I often thought I would be playing that fiendishly difficult but most splendid of instruments for the rest of my life. After all, I had chosen the violin over my other artistic passion—writing—back when I was in grade school.
When I was growing up in Detroit, seemingly 100 years ago, the public school system boasted a noteworthy afterschool program. At the age of 7 or 8, I remember being placed in a program for Creative Writing. I’m not sure why—some teacher must have seen a spark of some kind in me—and I don’t recall much of what I wrote (it was, after all, a century ago). But I do remember loving the process of creating characters and plot lines and weaving them all together to tell stories. That experience elicited in me a lifelong love for writing.
Not long after, however, I started studying the violin. As it happened, I was very good at it; but the violin, especially for a young child, demands total commitment. Writing took a back seat to the devotion I had to demonstrate in order to fulfill my musical potential.
Nonetheless, in the ensuing years, I continued to write. In high school, I journaled every day. (Those journals eventually became the basis for one of my early novels.) When I ended up playing in the Met Orchestra at the world’s most prestigious opera house, I still managed to take writing classes whenever I could fit them into my schedule. But opera dominated my life. I felt like I could express my love for it by playing the violin for as long as I could.
Then, one late afternoon as I was driving home from a long rehearsal at the Met, a vehicle traveling too fast for the wet conditions crashed into me. The life I had so carefully built came tumbling down, as I struggled with the resulting injuries. Ultimately the damage to my hands proved impossible to overcome. I had to retire prematurely from the job I adored and give up the instrument I thought I would play forever.
It soon became clear that the creative outlet I desperately needed a to replace this grievous loss was to return to my lifelong passion for writing. I moved to the west coast to study screenwriting and won a number of awards in competitions. Egged on by my writing teacher’s encouragement, I published my first novel, which won the Fiction Prize in the Direct from the Author Book Awards.
Inspired by some nefarious happenings at the Met, coupled with my wicked imagination, I became enthused about writing a murder mystery that would take place among the dark corners and hidden stairways of the Metropolitan Opera House. The protagonist, a young violinist, was based on myself when I was just starting out at the Met. I signed a 3-book contract with Level Best Books, who recently released Aria for Murder, the first in the series, with two sequels in the pipeline.
I’m sure I always will miss playing the violin, as well as the glamour and glitz of performing at the Met. But I feel blessed to express my creativity by writing. Instead of playing the violin to tell other people’s stories, I get to create my own. What could be better than that?
Former Metropolitan Opera violinist Erica Miner is now an award-winning author, screenwriter, arts journalist and lecturer. Erica’s debut novel, Travels with my Lovers, won the Fiction Award in the Direct from the Author Book Awards. Her screenplays have won awards in the Writers Digest, Santa Fe, and WinFemme competitions. Aria for Murder is the first in her Julia Kogan Opera Mystery series being published by Level Best Books. A resident of the Pacific Northwest, Erica also lectures on opera and writing on both coasts and internationally.
Buy links for ARIA FOR MURDER: