Book Review: Offbeat by Megan Clendenan

In Offbeat, a novel by Megan Clendenan, teenage violinist Rose wants to be a folk musician, but her mom wants her to go to conservatory to play classical music as a professional. Rose’s father died and left her his violin in his will, and so she takes the violin with her when she enters a folk music competition with her friend, Shilo. At the competition, she meets a cute boy named Liam who also has aspirations outside of the classical realm. When she enters the competition, she accidentally goes past her curfew to play with Liam and a few other musicians at a jam session, and this puts her at odds with Shilo and Shilo’s mom because she wasn’t supposed to stay out that late. When Rose accidentally leaves her father’s violin and it breaks, she takes it to a luthier/ instrument repair person to get it fixed, but also has to deal with the reality that her mother might not let her enter any more folk music competitions or let her play music at all. Can Rose still please her mother and follow her dreams?

This book was really good because as a classically trained musician I have lately been struggling with the idea that I must fit a certain type of mold to be a musician. Typically when you are a classical musician the only paths you think you can follow are as a soloist or as an orchestra musician. However, being a soloist is much harder nowadays because there is a lot of competition and a lot of great players out there. Many of my mentors in classical music have told me to stick with it as a hobby or do something semi-professional with it rather than try and follow my dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall. As much as I enjoy hearing symphony orchestras, I am not sure if having just one career in music is fulfilling to me. As much as I used to practice for a spot in professional symphony orchestras, I have come to understand that as I open myself up to more music of various genres I want to play with musicians outside of classical, such as Joss Stone, Elton John and Herbie Hancock, and redefine being a musician on my own terms. Herbie Hancock was classically trained, but he is an incredibly accomplished jazz musician who plays with musicians from all walks of life. He is not focused on being perfect, even though he is incredibly talented; he is focused on touching people’s lives and sharing his own life through his musical performances. I have no doubt that Rose’s aspirations to branch out to other genres of music will get her far in life. Also, Celtic music is really cool; I remember in college, in the orchestra concerts I would play in the fall, they had a Celtic music group that often performed, and the instruments included cello, flute, violin and harp. The pieces were very lovely and I’m really glad I got to listen to that genre of music.

When I first saw Offbeat, I was in the library looking for a good book to read. On the new books display they had this book with a violin on the cover, and I immediately thought, Wow! I haven’t come across many books about classical musicians lately, so why not check out this one? I am really glad I read this book; it has a really sweet message about not giving up on your dreams and playing music without fear. Even though Rose struggles with self-confidence at the festival, she learns that in order to touch people’s hearts, you cannot be afraid. It is a lesson I am striving to learn in my own journey as an artist.

Offbeat. 2018. Megan Clendenan. 140 pp.

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