Saturday, January 21, 2006


John Holt

I finished "Never Too Late" by John Holt. Yesterday, I described this book in some detail. A few more thoughts:

It appears that Holt always aspired to become a "skilled cellist". He certainly fought his inner demons to play frequently in public and with other groups. I think he used the pressure of performing with and in front of others to push himself to improve. It would be nice to read an update or maybe an interview with him about his music, before he died (7 years after writing the book).

My sights may seem to be set quite a bit lower. I want to be as good as I can get to be; but I prefer to be surprised as I go along rather than build up a bunch of expectations that I may or may not be able to meet. I don’t need to set myself up for a disappointment for not getting far enough fast enough. I do expect that I’ll always work at getting better, especially recognizing that it’s a slow, almost imperceptible process. The way I see it, I have all the time in the world to keep working at it. I don’t ever foresee reaching the day that I’ll say I’m good enough. I’ll always want to improve – even if it’s just to add to my repertoire. I want to play folk, bluegrass, country, jazz, alternative, rock, etc. I want to be able to take popular music from my favorites and transpose them for the cello.

I looked up John Holt on the internet and was mildly surprised to learn how eccentric he really was, in his personal habits, as well as in his professional (non-musical) life. He was fired from several teaching jobs because of his outspoken views about the damage the school system did to children. An interesting quote from a parent of one of his students, illustrates his approach – “a parent stood up and asked why we (the school system) were doing so much testing, ‘it’s like you are pulling up a plant by the roots every day to see how it was growing’.” He was a leading early advocate of home schooling (he called it “unschooling”). He approached life with an unusual intensity, with his emotional involvement always on the surface.  A remarkable person, who wrote an inspiring book.

I played hard today for almost 2 hours. I’m still just working on Suzuki.  Today, though, rather than play it just as written (I’d do this for four or five rounds until I felt I was getting the rhythm, intonation, and speed right), I’d then play it through transposed to the other strings – all I’d do is play the same fingerings on the other strings. It helps me memorize the piece and to pay attention to the connection of the sounds. I worked all the way up to the same stopping point - just before starting to use the second finger (C, F, Bflat, and Eflat). I worked on producing a big, but beautiful sound. I worked on bowing as rapidly and accurately as possible. I worked on fingering as quickly as possible.

One more week till my first lesson.

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