On what I’ve been up to while not behind the cello…

I have a little confession to make: for the last two weeks I’ve been avoiding my cello.

I know, I know, we talked about this already – a season for all things, etc…but when I wrote that, I just figured I’d be skipping out on my lessons for a couple of months. I’d still get in my hour of practice a night and orchestra rehearsal in.

What actually happened was that I didn’t even pick up my bow for two weeks. Orchestra is going through some pretty major operational upheavals that have resulted in a lack of rehearsal (we currently have no conductor…so, yeeeah.) Not that I had time to complain: With eight+ hours of either work or teacher training seven days a week, there isn’t much time for anything else. And if I thought I was just going to go to teacher training and come home and forget about yoga for four days out of the week, I was delusional. There are joints, muscle groups, range of motion, sanskrit words and bio-energetic systems to memorize, and essays to write.

So here’s how my week went: I walked by the cello on the way to work and dropping off my work bag on my way into the house coming home. I avoided eye contact on my way to salsa nights. And when I got tired of avoiding Raul’s (ask me sometime how my cello named himself) accusing stare as I trundled out of the house for the weekend loaded with yoga mat, food cooler and stack of spiritual texts, anatomy and yoga theory books, I put him in the case and buckled it shut. (I take that back: I did pick up my bow, to put it in the case with the cello on the way to the buckling it shut part)

I felt a little guilty at first. Then I stopped caring. I went dancing, diligently studied my sanskrit flashcards, and squeezed in a little time with TBF between bouts of editing. Another confession: I didn’t miss playing.

Until Monday. The second weekend of teacher training brought awareness to big personal issues that have been holding me back for longer than I’d care to admit in addition to the seven yoga classes in three day. By Sunday night I was emotionally raw and physically exhausted.

When TBF asked if I was headed to salsa practica Monday night I listened to the little inner self that begged for a night off. Delight bubbled up in me – what on earth would I do with myself with a whole evening “free?” I flirted with the idea of going to a movie (Columbiana and Warrior are on the top of my list – some flicks for an aspiring yoga instructor, eh?) but the weather was too amazing to spend the evening locked in a dark theater. With TBF out for the night I even had the house to myself. (Anyone who lives with their significant other, and is being totally honest, will admit: as much as we love having our partners around, there’s nothing like a night of having the place to ourselves.)

In the end I found myself unbuckling the case and taking the first whiff of wood and varnish. I felt like I just ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in some time. I made the goal of this session just to get “caught up”- to see how the time spent apart had impacted our relationship.

I worked my way through scales until I started to fumble. Instead of lingering on problem spots, I made notes of things I wanted to work on later and kept moving. When I was warm, I spent some time picking through old Suzuki 1 pieces. I touched Minuet 2 but didn’t linger – played it through to pick apart places that used to be easy and sailing through spots that used to hang me up for hours. To keep myself from trying too hard I kept the metronome on just slower than my last recorded speed (helps to keep track of those) and I played just for the sound of the music. I picked two pieces, purposefully excluding the Minuet, and scribbled some notes on what I wanted to work on later.

Then I just goofed off. It was that moment when you and that old friend hit a stride and all the time and distance fades away. I played drunken clown cello – sliding my fingers up and down the strings with long bow strokes to produce that sonorous, loopy sound – and then fiddled at vibrato. At last and unbidden, a series of notes floated up through my memory and I started to pick at them on the strings. The series featured one of my favorite sound combinations: that rise and fall of notes slurred on a long bow.

It must have been something from Schroeder, because I wasn’t able to find the piece in any of my books, and I still haven’t replaced that one. I was so pleased to discover it was lodged in my memory and somehow accessible to my fingers, that I kept at it until I had reconstructed two and a half measures.

It was the sweetest reward for turning my playing into play that I could have imagined.

Leaving myself longing for more I loosened my bow and put the cello back in it’s case. Almost two hours had passed since I’d sat down to play. I was reminded of the way time seems to vanish when you’re catching up with an old friend. This time, when I said I’ll see you again soon, I meant it.


And, since I didn’t get to see Columbiana (which I fully anticipate will be a terrible movie but am unable to resist) here’s a little fix of my current favorite kick-ass girl:

Somewhere between the Star Trek reboot, Avatar and the Losers, I've picked up a little crush...


I have a couple of things I’ve been meaning to get to around here, so stay tuned for upcoming posts:

*What to do when your cello names himself Raúl
*Memorization tricks
*MIT’s Opera of the Future Project
*My amazing human body (believe it or not, you have one too)


About Eddie

Watch what happens when you give a writer a cello.
This entry was posted in Life and other such oddities, Orchestra, Practice, What I've Learned and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to On what I’ve been up to while not behind the cello…

  1. Cello Tuner says:

    Just wanna say that I love your blog. Cheers!

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