Sunday, March 01, 2009



Wa-a-a-ay back when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I remember attending a school assembly featuring a local string quartet. They briefly described their instruments and gave a few examples of some of the blended sounds. Then they gave a short concert of various styles of music. I was captivated and went up afterward to look more closely at the instruments. When I got home I eagerly described all the instruments in great detail to my parents. They shrugged me off with a comment that I should learn the piano if I wanted to play music - and pointed at the three or four random lesson books in the piano bench (they didn't offer to provide piano lessons). The next year we went on a school trip to a concert (Peter and the Wolf) at the local university school of music. That was my total exposure to "live" classical music in my early school years. My parents did have a sizable collection of classical LPs, which I occasionally listened to in the dining room after school.

At open house in 7th grade, my general music teacher suggested to my parents that I ought to play some sort of instrument the next year in 8th grade band. They reluctantly agreed to rent a clarinet for a year but did not want to include any sort of lessons - I would have to pick up whatever I could through band class. I was excited, but wary. Band class was useful for learning the basics, but there was never much individual attention. The only external motivation to learn was so I could move up from 10th chair clarinet. My parents never pushed me to practice nor encouraged me in any way. At the end of the school-year I got as far as 7th chair; and I dropped out and returned the clarinet to the rental shop. I did learn a lot about the fundamentals of music theory and did learn to read treble clef.

Fast forward to this past Friday.

Cellocracy was invited to give a presentation at a local elementary school. We were asked to briefly describe how we make music using strings and then play a 20-minute set. To keep it informal, they set us up in the library and asked us to play two sets - one for the lower grades and a second for the uppers. In all, we played for about 150 students.

It went well (I surprised myself with some of my minor mistakes - but I did finally play Ash Grove flawlessly, both times). It was fun. The kids were so appreciative and so well-behaved. Several of them came up and thanked us afterward.

Is there any chance we inspired at least one of those eager kids to go home and talk to their parents about the cello?

This is what I do with my quartet all the time...the Arkansas Symphony sends us out to schools all over the state to do presentations for the kids...its always interesting to see how they take it. Sometimes they are so excited and ask tons of questions, but other times they seem to have no interest and don't pay attention at all. I wish that schools had a better music curriculum, there is no reason why classical music basics shouldn't be included along with all of the rest of the things the kids learn. Perhaps there would be more appreciation for the art form. We can all do our best to give great presentations and hopefully convert a few kinds over to liking classical music someday, but the we can only do so much, right?
I'm sure there was at least one. Between the undiluted celloey goodness (who needs those other instruments?) and the pleasure I am sure you were all projecting, who could leave that experience untouched?

It's very cool to be part of the long chain of musicians through time.
When I was in the 4th grade and the opportunity to learn an instrument was presented, my parents were supportive and that's when I started playing 'cello. It took you a bit longer but you're there now, and I'm sure that Cellocracy inspires as it goes. It's your enthusiasm and delight in playing that sells the idea to kids. That and a willingness for a bit of show and tell. It sounds like a great show you gave!
I love this story--it must have felt great, playing those concerts!

It is too bad your parents were not more supportive. On the other hand, I had lots of exposure to music when I was little, including supportive schools and parents, and piano, and flute lessons, but it still took me until I was well into adulthood to find the cello.
I've wondered why my parents were totally not supportive of our musical aspirations. My mother was a good pianist and loved to sing in the choir; and my father also could play the piano - although he seldom did (I did inherit his complete lack of singing ability).

Who knows, maybe their parents forced them to practice when they were children, and consequently they bent over backwards to avoid applying any pressure whatsoever?

I did nothing to encourage my two older sons, and they never became involved in music. On the other hand, I did actively encourage [prod] my youngest son to try something, leading him to take up the guitar, which he studies avidly.

I just started to learn to play the cello about a month ago; I am 47 years old. I have no other musical background at all, although I've wanted to play the cello since I was ten years old (my parents were not in favor, however) so this is a new adventure.

I just wanted to let you know that I'm enjoying your blog. Thank you.
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