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Playing Cello Badly

April 22, 2010

Tags: order, balance, cello, learning an instrument, Playing Cello Badly

A few years ago, I took up the cello. But there is no way around it: I am playing cello badly.

I fell in love with the instrument when my son began lessons at age six. Even in a beginner’s hand, the sound of a cello is always beautiful. Sitting in the background - as a good Suzuki parent - I immediately ached to play too. But it was “his” instrument, so I waited until he was well into teenage-hood and preferred the bass before I began my own cello journey.

What compels a person to do something badly? Sub-par? Imperfectly? Poorly? Inadequately? Never to measure up, grinding on the ears and musical taste of the audience? Making a fool of herself?

Love, I guess. We fall in love with something (I call it my “projects”), and we always start as out as bloody beginners. One summer, I went to a string camp for kids, and every time I made a mistake, a thirteen-year-old turned around and threw me a dirty look. That didn’t discourage me; I laughed: there I was - a grandmother, and accomplished physician, being scoffed at by a thirteen-year old. He was a bright boy and we became friends.

Over a lifetime, I embarked on many projects. Some faded away, like painting and knitting; some accompany me still: gardening, cross-stitching, beading, writing, and playing the cello. Each time I start a new project I risk looking stupid.

Come to think about it, even if you are accomplished in your field, you will stagnate if you don’t risk looking stupid. If a doctor thinks she knows all the answers only because she went to medical school, catastrophes lurk around the corner.

That’s all there is to it: Playing cello badly is the prerequisite of playing it better.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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