In Praise of Virtuoso, and Beginner, Cellists

I don’t play the cello, but I love it.  It’s big, it’s cumbersome, and it’s more expensive than my viola, violin or guitar.  Good cello strings are a very expensive habit.  And compared to a violin or viola, that fingerboard is huge.  But I just heard this:

Sure, he makes the goofy “musician face.”  Show me a musician who isn’t transported by the beauty, enraptured by the emotion, or just having fun with the music, or all of the above, and I’ll tell you he’s bored, distracted, not into it, or just not very good.

I’ve been a fan of cello music, and frankly a little jealous, since my school days when I first heard the cello introduction to the William Tell Overture.  If you’ve never heard it, it’s amazing, and it was my very first exposure to Tchaikovsky.

I suppose, as a fellow string player, I shouldn’t be so impressed.  But frankly, it’s amazing.  All the notes, from memory.  The bowing.  The tone quality.  The vibrato.  The position work.  The fingering speed and accuracy.  At about 15:30 the camera pans the audience and I was asking, why are they not weeping?  Did you get past 17 minutes?  If you didn’t you missed out.  And the HARMONICS at 8:24, 9:46, etc.  It’s like he’s dancing.  The JOY at 18:15 looks like a runner’s high as he sees, and then sprints to, the finish line.

Like an athlete, producing this kind of quality requires discipline.  I know.  I’ve played my viola for a long time.  When you first play “Twinkle, Twinkle,” it isn’t much.  But it’s a start.  And I’m going to keep practicing, even though I’m not in an orchestra right now.

You can play well after learning, but mastery requires practice.  Just like anything in life.  You don’t get to be Led Zeppelin or Jimmy Hendrix, the flautist at 10:20, any of the other soloists, or the rest of the supporting orchestra, or these guys (see below), without working at it.

It doesn’t sound good the first time you pick it up.  If it’s worth doing well, it isn’t ever easy.  Encourage yourself by watching others who do whatever it is well.  Join them when you can, and do whatever it is together.  Or share ideas, or ask questions.  It might be writing.  It might be cooking.  It might be running.  It might be music. There might be calluses, sweat, tears.  Whatever you want to do, practice, until the pain of the practice becomes the joy of your ability, and the celebration of the end product.  Like a relationship, love is your choice.  You might hate the pain of practice.  But.

Don’t give up.
Keep going.
Keep practicing.

Be amazing.

~DM

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