Thursday, December 16, 2004

Archives of cello deeds past

I am 38 years old. What I tell people who compliment my cello playing may sound humble, but it is true. I say, "I started playing the cello when I was in the fourth grade. I was never greatly talented, and I wasn't one of those people who practiced eight hours a day. My mom had started teaching me piano before I even started school, and gave me Hot Wheels to reward me (I think she started me at 4 or so). She also paid for private piano, cello and clarinet lessons for me all the way through high school, even when I didn't practice. The only reason I play well is really because I just never quit. I wasn't great. I didn't work hard. But I started music early, and I never quit."

I had a paper route in Gresham, Oregon for about six or seven years, back in the early eighties, when newspaper carriers still personally collected from their customers each month. I met a lot of people, and learned a lot of things talking to people on my route. Being somewhat interested in music, I would talk to people about that. Often I would hear people say things like, "I used to play the bassoon (or the ____, fill in the blank), but when I got a job (had a kid, was broke, again, fill in the blank) I had to quit." It was so sad. Here is an area of beauty in people's lives, and our society cares nothing about its demise. Art and music seem to be almost taboo in American society, or so it would seem. The same seems to be true for other creative endeavors too. For me, I came out of my experiences with an early inner resolve not to quit, no matter what happened.

It all happened.

I went to college, got a job, got a house, lost a job, got a new job, rented a tiny house, got married, sold my half of the first house and bought a big house, bought things, became so broke we almost lost the big house, worked our way out of trouble, partnered in a game store that failed, lost relatives, gained a daughter.

Throughout everything, I have always kept playing cello on a regular basis (admittedly less regularly at some times than others, but I've never sold my cello or quit entirely). I have always told myself, "I have too much time and money invested in this to throw it away." It's true, and also I have been able to make a small amount of money teaching and performing. After all these years, playing the cello is fun for me again, maybe more fun than it ever has been for me. I wonder now, whether if I had tried harder when I was younger, if I would play at a higher level now. But I know, too, that many of my peers who pushed themselves (or were pushed) extra hard, quit. They were better cellists than me then, but now I'm a lot better than they were. Certainly if any of them picked up a cello now, they wouldn't be able to play very well, if at all. What a waste.

So that's my secret. Don't worry about being perfect at what you do. Just don't quit.