Day 154 of 365
Tonight, I am writing my blog post while I am sitting in the back of a large church listening to an orchestra play Beethoven—and oh my goodness, they play it beautifully. They are mostly kids. There are a few adults, but these children are serious little musicians. They talk about Bach on their breaks. They are my son’s people—or at least as close as he’s been able to find so far.
The music is mesmerizing to me at times. Joyful at times. And, as a teacher, I love that the conductor is first and foremost a teacher. He explains things so well. He compliments often. He provides feedback with careful kindness. The coolest thing is when the musicians are not quite giving him what he wants, and he will tell a story to describe an emotion or grab a violin and demonstrate or sing notes. And, then, just like magic, this large group of child musicians gives him what he was hoping for. It’s absolutely a treasure to me as a teacher to watch great teachers in action. Because of my son’s cello journey, I have been able to watch a couple of master teachers in action—and I am a better teacher, parent, and human for it. My son is fortunate to have come into contact with such masterful teachers–but so am I.
When my son was in preschool, he started begging to play the violin because he heard a violin at his school. We dismissed this, thinking he was too young, and he was a rowdy boy. When he was seven, because the begging had continued off and on for over two years, I Googled violin lessons in our area and called to make an appointment to get a rental violin and lessons set up. I knew nothing about such things. I grew up in a culture without classical music, except for in the cartoons I loved. My husband, Ron, had played piano as a child but rebelled against it while he was busy rebelling against everything. I was so nervous about taking our son to classical music lessons, but I could see this fascination he had was something.
Less than a week before his first violin lesson was set to start, our son decided he really, really, really needed to play cello instead. He had been sitting in the car with my husband listening to classical music, and some cello piece came on the radio. And that was it. He needed that sound.
So I called and changed the violin lessons to cello lessons, and my son’s journey began. He’s been chasing a beautiful sound ever since—only it was my journey too, really a journey for our whole family, one that impacts every aspect of our lives, from the way I do my work to the number of animals Ron and I are able to manage on our little farmstead.
Early on, our son was smitten with that cello. He was pretty squeaky, of course, but not as squeaky as I thought he would be. His teacher at the time mentioned he had seen very few students learn as quickly as our son was learning. Still, it seemed our son was at such a disadvantage because there is a language and a culture to classical music that was completely foreign to all of us. I didn’t even understand at first that you needed a music stand, so for the first two months, I stood in front of my kid holding music.
It didn’t take us long to learn that our kiddo was pretty serious about the cello. One night, when we went to tuck him into bed, he started to cry. He didn’t know how to tell us without disappointing us, but he didn’t want to be a farmer like his daddy when he grew up. He wanted to be a cellist. He was just seven years old, but it seemed like he really meant it.
So I started reading everything I could and learning as much as I could. I found this blog written by a cello mom who also teaches writing, though her son was an extra level of serious. He got into Julliard’s pre-college program. Our kiddo is not that serious. I learned there were some sacrifices I was not willing for my son or our family to make. Still, I could see from the blog there was a culture to learn and that parents of little classical musicians had to be pretty devoted to the music as well—and to driving.
This summer, our son was at a camp on the coast of Maine. We would stay in the little town, sometimes, just sitting the car working or reading. I noticed other parents doing the same. I smiled so big when another cello parent got out of his car one day at the end of the day and said to us, “I need a chauffer’s hat. I’m really just a chauffer.” It’s true. There is a lot of driving.
There’s the driving. There’s the practicing. Thankfully, our son is just completely willing to practice his cello, but he also has to learn the piano if he really wants to be a musician. My son does not have the same love for the piano that he does for the cello, and sometimes, I have to be the nag about piano practices. I hate being the nag. Interestingly, once he starts, he will usually play and play. There’s also the keeping up with a schedule that seems to get more and more intense as he gets older—right when I am hitting menopause and can honestly barely remember what day it is from the menopause brain fog I am sometimes in. There’s snacks for orchestra. There’s making videos for auditions. There’s the constant worry over if he’s doing too much for a kid.
Thankfully, Ron and I are in this together. We make a good team. He drives the long distances. I drive the short distances. Ron also gives our son this kind of belief that anything is possible if you just work hard and believe in it with all of your heart.
And it’s all the most magnificent thing in the world to me. I have fallen in love with classical music and have found the cello speaks to me in a way other instruments do not. I guess my kid inherited this from me. The music has become one of the greatest joys of my life. It literally heals me. When I take my son to his cello lessons, I just sit and soak in the cello playing. I will literally feel a certain feeling in my arms, my legs, in my chest. I remember reading one time that the resonance of cat purrs is healing to both cats and people. Truly, the cello has this same power, the same kind of range of sound–or something—at least I am convinced of this.
And Ron has been changed for the better too. He plays classical music to his plants in the garden every summer. And the music is a part of the centering of ourselves that we both needed for so long.
The music brings me peace. It helps me connect to that magical thread that exists in the universe that only some of us are able to find some of the time. But it’s there.
One winter a few years ago, one of our ducks broke her leg on the ice. I was devasted. I thought she might have to be euthanized, but I read that healing was possible but would take a long time. Determined, we moved that duck into the house, and she lived with us for eight weeks. During that time, we discovered that she loved the cello. After she was able to walk again, when our son would start playing his cello, she would come from wherever she was in the house and sit at his feet. She loved the deeper tones the best. I am convinced the cello helped her heal.
It was a powerful experience for me, seeing this animal experience music so similarly to the way I experience music was a part of a kind of spiritual journey for me, one that involved connecting more deeply with animals. And, after that experience, every time we had a duck with bumble foot requiring foot soaks in our guest bathtub, to help calm them down, I would play classical music for them. I would play different pieces until I found one that suited the duck. I can say for certain that horns are not appreciated by ducks, but cello is. And Bach is a favorite for sure.
I have been writing so long tonight that the orchestra is nearly finished with their rehearsal. I Iook up sometimes to watch my son play and am thankful parents are allowed to sit and watch. I’m way in the back, but I can still see him a little. I love the way he sways to the music. I love that he gets to be a part of this big, beautiful sound, of something so much bigger than himself. He said one time he time travels through music, and isn’t that just the truth? Hopefully, he’s learning a skill that will help that empathic soul he inherited from his mom and his dad have some peace, some sanctuary, in a mad world.
And, oh my goodness, I love watching these children make beautiful music. By the way, they are rehearsing in a church named Hope. How perfect is that?
2 thoughts on “Cello Mom”
Lovely writing Crystal!
You’re son is very fortunate to have such devoted parents. Allowing a child to follow their passion is such a gift. Having a child with such a strong passion is also a gift! Listening to the orchestra practice, while sitting in the back of the church, soul food.
I think I’ve told you that my Farmer-ish daughter wanted to play piano at 4years old…. she had a childs piano which sat on the floor. We got her into classical piano lessons at the age of 5, she continued lessons all through highschool…. teaching some of her teachers young students.
She continued it in College where she again taught a few young students. When she got an apartment in BOS she couldn’t take her piano. Her Dad…. who plays the guitar… didn’t want her to loose her hard won skills so he bought her a full size keyboard.
She still has it set up but says it’s not the same as playing a piano so doesn’t play much. Someday she will get a piano.
To this day when I hear a piece that my daughter played, tears come to my eyes. Music is very moving. Hearing your child create music is … PRICELESS. ❤️
Oh, I love all of this so much, and you are so my people! It’s true that hearing your child create music is priceless. It’s one of the greatest joys of being alive to me. And I totally get this about the keyboard versus a real piano. We only recently found a real piano for our son. His cello teacher told us it would help to get him a real piano, and it did. He is doing better on his practices. He is definitely getting less reluctant to practice, which is wonderful all the way around.