1st Anniversary

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I just realized that today marks one year of playing the cello, but instead of feeling excited I feel totally lame. Through some internet sleuthing I finally found a community college orchestra I could possibly one day maybe play with. There was actually some useful looking contact info on their site, which there isn’t for Sac City (where I’m taking my theory class) Music Department, which currently doesn’t seem to even have an orchestra. How they offer a program for an AA in music I don’t know.

So, I get this idea that I could contact them and find out how good I need to be to join the orchestra. Not so much for right now — I know their rehearsals clash with my theory class — but to find out what I might do to prepare for fall semester. So I wrote down the name and phone number and called. It went to voice mail and I didn’t leave a message. I figured I could e-mail. So, I sat down to write the e-mail and chickened out. I didn’t know what to say. Is it okay to even be contacting the Orchestra Director? He’s the only person with contact info there, but should I try talking to someone at Sac City first since that’s where I’m taking theory? Maybe I should ask my teacher first, but would she even know? Not likely, seeing as all her experiences have been with the Davis school system, UC Davis, and Sac State. So, here I am, decidedly NOT contacting this guy and feeling utterly awful about it, but far too terrified to do anything about it.

This reminds me distinctly of the month before I started renting my cello. I decided I wanted to play an instrument, the cello, but was wavering about it because I thought the idea was ridiculous and stupid. Eventually I got myself into the music store, where the sales person all but insulted me and told me I had to wait six months for the school cellos to come back, that all they had was a step-up model and that I wouldn’t hear the difference for a couple years anyway so I didn’t deserve to rent it. Okay, I suppose he did insult me. It took nearly a month of my husband pushing me to finally end up with the cello and a few weeks after that to finally end up with a lesson. To this day I feel absolutely awful about myself when I think about it.

In the middle of not contacting the guy, I am thinking back on all this and realize today is February 4th, one year since my first lesson. Somehow, feeling down on myself for being neurotic and scared and not acting seems perfectly appropriate in light of what it took for me to end up playing the cello.

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13 responses »

  1. Congrats on reaching your first anniversary!

    Last week I flip flopped between going and not going to the beginners string group for days, then hours, then in the car in the car park. Then standing outside the door. Turn the handle. Noooo. Just turn it. NOOO!!!! STFU and open the freaking door!!!! Noooo.. OMG, it’s opening, someone’s coming out. Am I here for the string group? Er…..

    I knew that inside, it would be filled with youtube brats with pushy parents who would demand that I be expelled because my poor standard of playing is holding their little angel back. I cant play this thing, I mean I’m only on book one. This was a stupid idea, in fact the whole thing was a stupid idea. I need a drink….

    But really, what’s the worst possible thing that could happen if you did send the guy an email? Send round the goons to destroy your cello for having the nerve to even think that you might possibly be good enough one day to join their string section? Unlikely. Report you to that crazy Homeland Security Dept you have over there for unauthorised use of a stringed instrument with intent to play Bach? Well slap me in handcuffs if I ever fly through LAX.

    I totally understand though. Hey, it took me 3 decades before I got up enough nerve to take this thing up.

    I guess what I’m trying to say (and omg, I hope I’ve not come across like a total jerk) is we’ve nothing to fear but fear itself. And virtuoso eight year olds.

    BTW have you tried the local music shops in the area? That’s how I found my group and even google didn’t know about that.

  2. There used to be a local summer symphony here, but it seems to have vanished and no one knows where it goes. We have the best town wiki in the nation and if it’s not on there, it really doesn’t exist anywhere. We even included bunches of stuff about other town if they affect us or involve prominent community members. So, chances are small that there’s actually an orchestra that I could play with here. If the 7th grade orchestras took 27 year olds I’d totally join, but somehow I don’t think they’d let me. Unfortunately for me, all beginner groups are through the schools, so I’m kinda out of luck. Which is why, once I found out about that orchestra, I was wondering how good I would need to be. I just feel like I wouldn’t even know what to say, except that I don’t even know what questions I’m really there to ask. And as for what could happen, I always fear that whoever I encounter is mean to me. That’s hard for me to deal with. I still dread the music store in case that mean guy is there.

  3. You’re probably not going to be comfortable in a college orchestra for a little while yet. Keep looking – I am sure there are community orchestras around. Are any of these close? Do you have a large music school, academy or conservatory nearby? They will often have a New Horizons or beginning string orchestra.

  4. Congrats on your first year anniversary. Here’s to many more years of cello- love. My teacher has been encouraging me to look for community level orchestras. Good luck with your search!

  5. I’ve been looking almost since I started playing, but have found nothing in the area for beginners who are adults. The only option is to get pretty darned good and somehow get yourself involved with the already good groups around here. I was wanting to contact the guy not because I think I’m ready now, but to have an idea of what I would need to be able to do before I’m ready to audition. There’s no large music school or conservatory or anything near by, just a UC, CSU, and the community colleges. I really don’t think there are other options.

  6. You never know. He might have other leads, too.
    Have you thought about summer programs as an option? Not like all year ’round, but could be a nice way to start. There are lots of fun cello camps for adult beginners. It’s registration season, though, so you should start looking if you’re interested.

  7. I just spent the last half hour looking at summer programs online. I found one in my area, but it seems far too advanced because they want a resume of all my musical experience. They say it’s open to advanced high school students, college students, and adults (which doesn’t seem to mean people like me.) I tried finding camps in northern California, but they either had the same type of requirements or were for kids and teens. There are tons of programs, summer and year round, for kids, but the cut-off is always 18. I’m beginning to think that I won’t get to play in a group until I’m 80 years old. This whole thing is terribly discouraging. The entire musical education system is set up for children and seems to purposefully exclude adults.

    Well, now I’ve got myself into even more of a funk than I was already in. I thought I’d take a break from practicing because warming up was completely failing and I’ve somehow convinced myself this whole thing is entirely impossible.

  8. No, no, no. Way too soon to give up. Are you set on local? SummerKeys is the best I know for beginners, but it’s all the way in Maine! Have you tried the major lists? Here are the ACMP and the All Strings summer program directories. Look for “Beginners Welcome.” šŸ™‚

  9. Truly, I could hardly afford anything local, so non-local is out of the question. I found this camp, but I think it’s for people who are rather advanced, not people like me. And there is a community orchestra in Sac, but it’s a damn good orchestra and I’ve known professional musicians to speak of its members with reverence. They have a junior orchestra, but it’s for kids. Though I suppose I could give them a call anyway to see if they’d allow an adult to audition…

  10. Hi Elysia! And Happy Cello First Birthday!

    This is probably a bit far for you, but there’s a Summer Strings Workshop run by the San Francisco Civic Symphony in June/July. They don’t have much of a web presence, but this is the site http://sfcivicsymphony.com/ and info will appear there nearer the time. Bit of a trek from Sacramento, but still…

    I played with them last summer. It’s for adult beginners/lapsed amateurs/anyone who fancies it. I was easily the worst person there, and could not play any of the pieces all the way through, but that really wasn’t a problem. (It might bother a different individual more than it did me, but in terms of being unacceptable to others, my sense was it was fine: I just played whatever I could — it was still a good experience!)

    There’s also this: The Really Terrible String Orchestra (now there’s a name not to fear…!) http://www.rtso-sfbay.org/About-Us.html
    They meet in Berkeley once a month. I’ve never been, but a lovely woman in that summer orchestra was a regular, and it truly did sound like a place where anybody of any level really was welcome, with no being judgmental or anything. (You just have to win your half of the battle, and not be too hard on yourself!) Again, bit of a trek, but maybe doable just once a month.

    If the time and money circumstances are ever right, I’d like to try a residential summer programme or something one day, too, but this definitely won’t happen for a while! — I remember when I was entertaining these utopian ideas and looking into it, I found this one in NorCal, which didn’t sound too intimidating in terms of requirements, from what I recall.
    http://navarrorivermusic.com/string_camp.php
    I’m sure people who go to these kinds of things for the first time are often nervous, though!

    Incidentally, my teacher said that the first year is the hardest, the second year is the next hardest, and after that it’s never as hard again.

    It’s sounds like you’ve accomplished loads this year, though, and are making great progress, so don’t lose heart!

  11. 40 years ago I used to get to Sacramento fairly often, now I live about as far away as you can get in the “lower 48”. Still, my need is the same. I’ve moved from Vermont to Maine and have found it frustrating that I can find a beginner orchestra in Maine. In Vermont, there are a few adult beginner orchestras (Burlington, Montpelier, and possibly others) and they run differently than a regular community orchestra.

    The biggest differences are that you pay to play. This “buys” a conductor who provides simpler music, has more rehearsals, and the plays are either learning their first instrument or are practicing instruments on which they have less skill. The pace is quite a bit slower as the focus is instructional. It is common to have people playing parts for coverage even though it may not be being played on the right instrument (a trombone covering a french horn part, a flute playing an oboe part, or a clarinet covering a trumpet part).

    They are so much fun that I’m disappointed that I haven’t yet found one in Maine.

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