As I’m sure all of you who are reading this already know, I had my second ever recital last night. I was practicing beforehand and doing horribly. I had turned my house up to 71, but my hands were still frozen stiff. I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but I almost need to be too hot while playing cello in order for my hands to work properly. My hands tend to have poor circulation, so if the rest of me is too hot, then my hands are just right. Since I was so chilly while trying to practice I couldn’t make any of my extensions and every time I tried my wrist would strain. At this point I was pretty convinced I’d fail miserably at the recital and since practicing was really not helping, I worked on getting all done up so at least I’d look pretty. I finished and it was kinda time to go, but I was feeling warmer and ran through my songs one more time just to see if I was doing any better. Thankfully I was, which was reassuring because my teacher keeps her house somewhere in the sweltering range.
I managed to get there 5 minutes early instead of 10, which actually worked just fine. While I was quickly unpacking and tuning I was told I was first. As soon as I was done getting ready, I got to go play for everyone, which was actually a blessing. I had to concentrate on doing what needed to be done and everything happened so fast that I didn’t have time to be nervous. None of the refinements from last lesson managed to come out in my playing, but it was a solid performance and I was happy with it. Then I got to listen to everyone else all nice and relaxed because the hard part was over.
My lesson on Sunday was all about prepping for the recital tonight, and my teacher, of course, gave me
a million many things to work on. It’s not that I can’t do them, but even with the best of intentions the consistency with which I execute them is rather lacking. So, I plan on practicing for maybe an hour today, but mostly I need to try to relax about it (hopefully!) I don’t want to start over thinking yet again because who knows what I’d end up doing at the recital. I got to perform one of the pieces for the previous student and her family at the beginning of my lesson before they left, which was actually pretty fun. I focused on relaxing and sinking in, and it turned out quite well, certainly better than any of the other times we’d played the duet together. So, that’s my goal for the recital tonight, because when I focus on sinking my weight in and not the results, it generally turns out I actually do know what I’m doing and I play my best. So, here’s to hoping that a room full of people staring at me doesn’t get in the way of that.
So, in the midst of all the holiday craziness, including my in-laws having been in town, I’ve been preparing (or at least trying to prepare) for my recital. So far it’s kinda hit-and-miss — three hours one day, none the next, and so on. The lack of consistency is hard for me. Even missing just a day I get depressed and start wondering what I’m doing and why I think I can ever learn to become even so much as a not-awful cellist. Here I am, 27 years old with a degree in economics working 12 hours a week at the county library instead of a real job because of the cello. A former boss of mine was ready to give me Assistant Store Manager at the company she works for and I had to say no, because of the cello. Even though it had benefits and I haven’t had insurance in two years. Because I couldn’t guarantee that I would be able to get to my weekly lesson, that I wouldn’t have enough time to practice, that I couldn’t take theory classes, that I’d be too tired from working to learn as effectively. All this for the cello, and no guarantee that I will ever be any good.
Yet it is the only choice. I spent my whole life feeling that something was missing, always searching, falsely finding it in other things. Then, having given up, I did not recognize what I’d found when I started playing the cello. I remember one day, perhaps a couple months into playing, my teacher asked me to tell her about myself, besides the fact that I love playing the cello. I love playing the cello? I didn’t get it even then. How could I have been so clueless?
It wasn’t until after my first recital that I realized what I’d found. Two days before the recital, my teacher decided to introduce dynamics to me and asked me to apply them to the songs I was performing at the recital, most especially in Twinkle Twinkle. In the two intervening days, I practiced as much as I could, fascinated by this new concept she called dynamics. The recital wasn’t all that eventful. I was nervous, didn’t play my best. Fairly typical. But it was the days between the recital and my next lesson that were important. Having accomplished what she wanted me to for the recital, I was left to my own imagination for daily practice. With the idea of dynamics having taken hold of me, I worked on the next five songs in Suzuki, just so I could figure out what dynamics to apply to those songs and how to play what I’d thought to do. Nothing in the world had ever captivated me so much. I would sit down to practice and when I looked up to check the time it would be three hours later. It was then that I finally recognized I’d found something important.
When I get to thinking how crazy I must be to have rearranged my whole life around the cello, I reflect on what I just shared with you, and I realize it would be even crazier not to.
Today, as frequently happens, I was wondering what some of the notations in my music meant. sec and soutenu really kinda had me. I can generally figure it out if the word is Italian, since I did take several years in college. French, however, stumps me every time. Somehow I’ve managed to not end up buying a musical dictionary in all this time (I do however have one on my Amazon wish list, so hopefully someone does it for me!) So, I thought I would google “music dictionary” and see what came up. Lo and behold! A really nifty online dictionary from Virginia Tech! It didn’t have soutenu but it did have sec, which was quite helpful. It was surprisingly comprehensive and is wonderfully free!
Sometimes life sure does get busy! Unfortunately that means less cello time, and even less cello blogging time, during the craziness of the holidays. This last week I wasn’t able to practice on two of the days, which is pretty much torture. Plus, the amount of time I got to practice on the other days was considerably shortened. My teacher is holding a recital in about a week and a half, which I’m really excited about, but I’m also worried I won’t be able to practice as much as I would like. I will be playing the Bach minuet that I’ve been working on for some time, plus the next two pieces in Feuillard, which are by Haydn and Schumann. Wish me luck!
Also, my teacher has started me working on the A harmonic and tenor clef. Fun!
I want to start off by expressing just how grateful I am that there are so many adult beginners out there who have blogs of their own. I try to read them as much as I can and comment where I see fit, but I could spend the whole day doing that. If I don’t get to your blog, it’s not because I’m not reading it. I’m probably too busy slaving through whatever song I’m currently working on to post my thoughts about what you have to say.
Before I started this blog, I felt really alone out there. I don’t know other adult beginners, not even people who are learning other instruments. Also, people often think I’m crazy for choosing to do this, particularly advanced string players. Then I discovered all sorts of blogs by beginning cellists in various blog rolls. It’s been wonderful to read about people’s experiences learning this wonderful instrument and to realize I’m not the only person out there going through these things.
Thanks, fellow bloggers!
P.S. If you want me to link to your cello-related blog and I have not done so, let me know in the comments.