Playing the Cello

I started playing the cello in 4th grade. Everyone in my family plays something and as a youngster I spent a lot of time going to rehearsals with my mom and siblings so it was only a matter of time before I picked my instrument. Once day, I saw a woman playing the cello and the story goes that I said to my mom, “I want to play that.”Apparently, I didn’t let it go and eventually my parents bought me a cello of my very own.

There wasn’t always someone around for me to take lessons from and I didn’t always love to play. My mom coached me a little and I took lessons when possible. When my grandparents lived in Madison, Wisconsin, we’d visit during the summer and I’d take lessons from a student at the University. Later, we spent summers in Minneapolis, Minnesota and I’d take lessons from students at the University there. Also, I got the chance to go to a summer music camp in Minneapolis when I was 16.

Eventually we found a consistent teacher in Panama City (Maria Cecilia, bless her heart, she put up with a lot from me) and I joined a youth orchestra. Those were some of the best times of my high school years with the exception of the fact that I had to actually practice. If you know me at all,  you’ll not be surprised to know that my favorite part of  playing in a youth orchestra was seeing my friends at rehearsal. And I lived for the 2 weeks we spent at Music Camp.

I was petrified every time I sat down to play, I really wasn’t very good. In fact, when I first started playing in the orchestra, my mom sat next to me to help me follow along and keep up. I did the best I could and especially learned how to keep my mistakes as quiet as possible. Over the years, playing recitals, duets, ensembles, and so on, I got more and more nervous, till at one point I shook like a leaf whenever I had to play in front of anyone. I didn’t even like practicing at home since I knew the whole apartment building could hear me.

While I continued to play through college, I avoided public performances as much as possible. I did accompany my college choir a few times, but only because I have a hard time saying no and there was a teensy part of me that enjoyed the attention. Eventually, I stopped playing in public entirely, only taking lessons occasionally. I do really love to play, I just don’t enjoy how hard it is to play as well as I’d like.

I recently admitted to a small group of my coworkers that I play the cello. We had the usually conversation about how I should play for them and blah blah. Of course I refused (easily enough since I didn’t have a cello around), but I got to thinking: what is up with that? Maybe I should try to play more. It’s an amazing instrument after all and I do enjoy it.

A few weeks ago, I went to my company’s annual meet-up. We each have to give a 4 minute talk on the topic of our choice and I decided to challenge myself to do something scary. I dusted off my cello, practiced a relatively easy piece for a couple of months, found an accompanist, and recorded myself playing*. I used iMovie to cut the recording down to about 30 seconds so as to not bore people to tears.

The accompanist who helped me is the organist at my church, and she asked me to play for church. I guess I am done keeping it a secret and I am ready to try to get over my intense fear of playing in public.

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With great trepidation, I include below the snippet:

* I couldn’t take my cello with me, since I had to fly. Think about it for a second 🙂

6 replies to “Playing the Cello

  1. Beautiful playing, Karen! It took me a few *years* of constant solo performing before I felt comfortable on stage. For me, the pure joy of making and playing music outweighs any anxiety I have about performing now. 🙂

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