Cello-bration

My blog isn’t as mature as a lot of the others you’ll see from NaBloPoMo since I’ve only been blogging for a few weeks. I’m still introducing various themes that you could expect to see here. One of the themes you’ll see frequently is my music. I’m actually surprised it took me this long to write about it, but we had some other things come up that needed immediate blogging attention, like snakes and birthdays, so this got pushed back until today.

I play the cello. I started playing when I was in the 6th grade when everyone had to be in either band, orchestra, or choir. It was only the second year my school district had an orchestra, so that automatically intrigued me. I was also quite the little non-conformist already so there was no way I was going to do anything that everyone else did, like play the flute or clarinet. So I went over to the strings and talked to them, fully expecting to play the violin, like some of my other (Chinese, of course) friends. But that was not to be. I remember this so clearly, it scares me. Dr. English was the orchestra director and he looked at me and my build and my hands and told me I was made to play the cello. I was already fairly tall, had long arms and a long torso, and very large, but thin, hands. So he brought me over to the cellos and I picked one up and pulled the bow across it and actually made a good sound. So I signed up right away.

I played through middle school while also being pretty active in gymnastics. But as high school approached, I knew I was going to have to choose something, and that something was going to be gymnastics. But then I got hurt (again) and figured that playing the cello was less hazardous to my health.

So it was halfway through my freshman year that I got really serious about cello. I got a great teacher, and really buckled down. I made all of the honor orchestras and youth symphonies, did well at competitions, and was good enough that majoring in performance was a definite possibility. My parents (father) weren’t too keen on the idea of a music degree. He was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it (irony alert: I majored in history with a concentration in religious studies…you want fries with that?).

But the summer before I started college, I started to waver. Although I played really, really well, there was a group of others that I was directly competing against who were soooo much better. And it started to happen that they were just leaving me behind in the dust. I had always struggled to keep up with them, but now, no way. These were the people who were going to make it as professionals and I wasn’t. The frustration was indescribable. I compare it to a career Triple A ball player. Really, really, good, but never going to make it to the bigs.

When I couldn’t even get an audition with the orchestra at UT, I was crushed. I kept playing for a while, but with nowhere to play, there wasn’t much I could do. Slowly, the cello began to gather dust, and then I made the stupidest move in my entire life: I sold it. I was so frustrated and sad that I didn’t even miss playing for years.

Fast forward about twelve years….

A co-worker of my husband’s was in his office and she recognized me from a picture on his desk. She had played with me in the Houston Youth Symphony during high school and we had become friends. We had lost touch, but I still remembered her (she has a very distinctive name). We started getting together socially. She still had a cello and still played occasionally. At about the same time, word got out at my church that I had played a musical instrument. The music director, whom I absolutely adore, started putting some mild pressure on me to try picking it up again. I finally relented and asked my friend if I could borrow her cello for a bit.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. It had been so long. But I rosined up the bow and placed it gently on the string. I was really scared. I pulled it across, and the music came back. After a few minutes, the muscle memory kicked in and I was playing excerpts of pieces long forgotten, but still loved. I think I started to cry. Not long after that, I bought a cello of my own and started looking for outlets to play.

I now play frequently with my church and with the Willamson County Symphony. I also harbor delusions of setting up a small chamber group here in Stepford that could perform recitals a few times a year. I am very happy that music is once again part of my life. And I can actually credit it with saving my life, but that’s another blog entry.

I’m a much happier musician than I ever was as a young adult. Now I play because I truly enjoy it. It’s so much easier now without all of the pressure. Who knows, maybe if I can ever get the ensemble off the ground, I can still fulfill some of my music related dreams. It’s not too late to make them come true.

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6 responses to “Cello-bration

  1. Oh now I want teh next entry. 🙂

    The cello, my favorite. I had to compromise to the viola. It’s lovely too, but not the cello.

    I abandoned my instruments so long ago.

    How cool to hear someone picking theirs up again.

    Julie
    Using My Words

  2. What a great story, and you tell it so well. I am so glad you returned to the cello, and that you took up blogging.

    I was one of those flute players in high school. My mother told me, about a year ago, that she picked the flute for me because she already had one. My daughter picked the cello for me. We started together when she was 10, and she has since quit. I love the cello, but was almost oblivious of it before I started–at the age of 52. If I could do that, you can certainly start a chamber group!

    Funny about hands–I have been told I have piano hands and cello hands. My fingers are kind of short though, so I suspect they are really typing hands.

  3. Gottagopractice

    Welcome back, Melissa. I agree – music is much better the second time around. It’s like (insert your favorite aged food or beverage product here.)

  4. That’s wonderful that you’ve picked it up again. Being able to make music is a very beautiful thing. Cello is such a beautiful instrument too.
    I played clarinet in highschool; and piano for much of my life. Your post is inspiration for me to get back on the keyboard.

  5. Hi Melissa, I’m really enjoying your blog as you can tell from all the comments (I’m pecking them out on my iPhone as I wait for my flight back home – actually the phone ate my eloquent comment the first time so here’s my second attempt – sorry so late!). I had a similar experience with classical piano. I went to the Tanglewood program I’m high school as the youngest pianist but my parents were dead set against me going into music. Finally I realized that I wasn’t winning all the competitions but getting honorable mentions and that probably wouldn’t make for a very good living. Plus I didn’t have it in me to practice more than 2 hours a day as basically I’m a lazy person who likes to get away with as little work as possible (and they could see this in me!).

    I’m glad that I have a cushy job now where I can enjoy playing the piano as a hobby on my terms. I also love the cello and rented an instrument took lessons around 10 years ago, but had trouble with pain in my bow hand. Now I’m sticking to trying to get my kids interested in music. My son doesn’t care to learn the piano and would much rather play sports. I may just start lessons because it is good for disciplining the mind and maybe he’ll come around. My daughter definitely has potential and loves classical music. So we’ll see how that unfolds.

  6. I really enjoyed reading your post about coming back to music. It is much better to play because you want to. I took up the cello 4 years ago after wanting to play it most of my life. My mother wanted me to play the violin or flute because it was easier to carry, so we compromised on the…piano. Go figure. Well, pianists mostly travel to their instruments so they only have to carry music. I love playing the cello and I have such a different approach to playing and lessons than I did as a kid taking piano lessons. I play the piano still, but on my own terms (mostly now playing with groups…much more fun than playing solo)

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