Saturday, December 15, 2018

2018 Inspiring People of the Year Jeanne Skrocki

Professional Violinist, Aeronautical Engineer, Private Pilot, Motivational Speaker, Author, Music Ambassador, Wife, Mother

I started playing the violin at five years old.  My mother is a violinist and she was also my first teacher.  She taught me to love music and to love playing the violin.  By the time I was 10 years old, I was good enough to play a solo with the local community orchestra where I lived.  When I was finished, I took my little bow and everyone stood up and they were all clapping for ME.  I vividly remember thinking, THIS is what I want to do!  They like me when I play the violin!  So I worked very hard and began practicing 3 or 4 hours every day.  When I was 14 years old I won a competition and, as a result, I got to solo with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.  This made me certain that my dream was to be a famous concert violinist and to play with orchestras all over the world!  When I was 16 I had the great honor of being accepted as a student of the greatest violinist of the 20th century, Jascha Heifetz.  I studied with him in master classes at the University of Southern California.  I was certain the next step would be my solo career as a concert violinist.

But in the next couple of years, things began to change.... My older brother, whom I was extremely close to, suddenly died at only 19 years old.  My mom moved away and there was other turmoil in my household and in my life.  I was 18 years old and I began to doubt the dream that was born on that stage as a little girl.  I had never done anything else except play the violin.  What if there was something that I liked better? How would I know?  I wasn’t certain anymore.  So I made a radical decision to quit the violin and try to find out.

The next ten years took me in many different directions.  I worked as a secretary and as a ride operator at an amusement park.  I went to college and graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering.  After graduation, I worked for two years as an aerodynamics engineer in San Diego. During this time, I got my pilot’s license, married my first husband (a pilot, of course), and then spent two years living in Mozambique, Africa, doing humanitarian work with Air Serv International.  I learned to speak Portuguese and trained many of the nationals who worked in the office.  It was the best and worst time of my life. There was gunfire on the outskirts of the city every night.  It was too dangerous to leave the city by ground transportation. Electricity came and went, and we had water for only about 20 minutes a day—at 5:00 in the morning! So when you heard the water come on, you’d jump out of bed and fill every bucket and tub you could find because that was your water for the day. In spite of the danger and inconveniences, living in Africa was amazing.

Shortly after we came home from Africa, I ran into friend who told me about an orchestra, Pacific Symphony, that was having auditions for violinists. After ten years away from it, I got the violin out and dusted it off and started practicing again. It felt pretty awful for the first few months, but I worked hard and a year later I took the audition and I won the job!  That audition was 27 years ago and I have since enjoyed a successful music career as Assistant Concertmaster of Pacific Symphony, recording hundreds of major motion picture film scores, teaching and coaching.

I have also had the tremendous joy and blessing of passing on my love of the violin to my daughter, who studied violin with my mom through high school and with me in college.  We have all three enjoyed a life of music together, performing together and teaching and sharing our love of music with others.  It is truly a unique blessing to be three generations of violinists!

I discovered walking for my health as a result of a ruptured appendix in 2013.  I have a very high tolerance for pain, so I did not know anything was seriously wrong until I finally went to the emergency room after three days.  By that time there was so much infection and inflammation that it was not operable.  I was in the hospital for three weeks on IV antibiotics and it was a very dangerous situation.  While I was in the hospital I noticed that there was a big difference in the healing time of surgery patients who were in good shape and those who were not.  I decided that I was going to exercise and take better care of myself and get in shape when I got out of the hospital.  Since my knees don’t do well with running I decided to start walking.

Since then I have walked hundreds of miles and gained an appreciation of the importance of taking good care of myself.  Two years ago I attempted to complete Yolanda’s 52 Day Challenge and I was not able to walk every day or to finish so I tried again this past summer.  I did it!  I walked at least two miles a day for a total of 120 miles over the 52 days.  This has motivated me to set new goals and challenges and even begin entering some races.  Walking has stabilized my blood sugar issues from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, the opposite of diabetes).  It has helped alleviate my joint pain and cramps in my legs.  More importantly, I have discovered that daily walking is not just essential for my physical health but even more for my mental and emotional health.  It is my time to be outside and breathe fresh air and feel the sun and the wind.  It is the time that I think about things and spend time in prayer and get energy for the day.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to live out so many different dreams and desires already in my life.  I believe that we are all here for a reason and that we all have a gift to share with the world.  People often express amazement that I have done so many things in my lifetime so far.  But I believe that we are all capable of doing anything that we want and set our mind to.  I was able to experience these amazing opportunities because I was not afraid to say “yes”, I believed that I would figure out how to do it and I was willing to put in the work that would be required.  I overcame fear with courage, doubt with determination.

The next chapter in my life is as a motivational speaker, author and music ambassador.  It is my dream to use my life experiences and the wisdom I have gained to encourage and help others who want to make a difference in the world; those who are fearful and not certain how to move forward and take advantage of amazing opportunities when they come along.  And especially those who are struggling towards a goal and need motivation to continue the fight.  I want to share my love of music and how important it is in our lives, individually and as a society.  And I will continue to walk and take care of myself so that I have the energy to go after more dreams!


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Detailed story of my life on this podcast: 

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