Day 238 of 365
When I was in sixth grade, I signed myself up at school to play the clarinet. I was about to start junior high, and they had real music classes in junior high. I was so excited because you had to take some kind of music class. It was required. You could learn an instrument or take choir. There was an instrument rental fee, but the music teacher assured us it was very affordable. I am not sure, but I think it was just $6 a month for the clarinet.
I thought the rental fee might be a deal breaker for my mom (we were pretty poor), but I also thought it wasn’t very much money. I was planning my pitch in my head. My first plan was to just tell her we had to play an instrument and that there was really no choice. If she didn’t buy that one (and she didn’t), my next plan was to emphasize that I could earn the money myself, that I would babysit or clean houses or mow yards.
I was devastated when these plans didn’t work. My mom was adamant and called the school and had me moved to choir. That was the only and last time I tried to get music lessons as a kid, but I always wanted them. My grandfather could play guitar and banjo and the fiddle, and I greatly admired his skill. When he died, it was like our family lost the music.
I didn’t really even know what a cello was until I was in my 20s. I was teaching at a college in Oregon that had a nice music program. One of my writing students kept asking me to come to the semester recital to hear her play the cello. I was so busy and so overworked, but she was persistent. I went to the recital and watched several students play the cello. I loved it. I can look back and say for sure I loved the cello the first time I heard it. I was envious of my student. I actually thought about asking if I could take cello lessons through the college because I could take free classes, but when you have small child and are working 65 hours a week, you don’t get to do things like that just because you want to.
When my youngest started begging to play an instrument (he started asking to play the violin at age 4), I didn’t listen because I thought he was just way too rowdy for music lessons. He was larger than life from the time he was a toddler, and I couldn’t imagine him sitting still long enough for lessons. When he was 7 and still asking to play, we decided it was time. I found a place in town that did both violin rentals and lessons and called to make an appointment. In the few days before the first lesson, my son heard the cello on the radio and insisted I call and change his lessons from violin to cello.
The rest is history–as they say. My son loved that cello and learned fairly quickly. At a young age, he practiced a lot because he was (and still is) chasing a beautiful sound. I became a cello mom–lessons, pep talks, orchestra, snacks, bows, rosin, straps, music folders, music stands, ties, dress pants, white shirts for this orchestra, black shirts for the other orchestra–I am on top of all of it, at least most of the time. He’s been in lessons for six years and still growing and learning, and being a cello mom is like a part-time job I have. And I never mind it. I love it all because I love my son, of course, but I also love the cello. My son is devoted to it, and it makes perfect sense to me to devote oneself to such a beautiful instrument.
For some time, I thought I would take cello lessons when my son was grown, but I was in a youth orchestra board meeting last semester when one of the other parents said he started taking violin lessons when his daughter did seven years ago and he now plays in a community orchestra! This was inspiring to me.
Please know I know I am never going to play in a community orchestra. I have been trying to practice holding the bow on the strings and just making sounds over the last few days, and I am terrible. I mean, I knew I would be terrible, but I am extra terrible. My son, who is extremely sensitive to sound, looked very pained as I was trying to play, but he was supportive. When I made sounds that were less painful to his ears, he was quick to note it.
I am not discouraged by my terrible playing though. I am just so grateful to have a chance to learn, 36 years after I signed myself up to play the clarinet. My first cello lesson is Wednesday.
photo credit: Andrea Zanenga, Unsplash