Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Playing the cello

If I had known how hard it is to learn to play the cello well, I would never have had the courage to begin. Fortunately, I didn't investigate the issue too thoroughly, and decided to jump right in.

After 7+ years of playing, I am now finishing up Suzuki book 3. I've been in book 3 for over 4 years. Kind of hard to believe, as I know there are many people in their 3rd year of study who are in book 4, 5, or 6. I take lessons with an excellent teacher who follows the Suzuki method closely. I memorize all the pieces, every fingering, every bowing; I have a book recital at the end of each book, in which I play all the pieces with a pianist, from memory. I was having a lot of trouble holding all of book 3 in my head at the same time, so, in December I had a "Half-Book 3" recital, and in a couple of months, I will have another recital for the second half of Book 3. I play with numerous other people in small ensembles and involve them in the recitals. My first book 3 recital included five Suzuki pieces and about a dozen ensemble pieces with others singing and playing cello, flute, violin, fiddle, banjo, piano, harpsichord, Irish drum, and guitar. I do enjoy this part of my recitals, but it does, of course, increase the preparation time.

So, while I am proceeding incredibly slowly through the Suzuki system, I work hard at polishing it, and I play a lot of other music. But I often feel I should be better than I am, for playing seven years. I used to practice 2 hours a day, but for a long time have had difficulty finding enough time to practice (in part because I have rehearsals four nights a week, sometimes more, so it is not that I am not playing at all). I love playing, I love the ensembles, but I know there is no substitute for regular, organized, disciplined practicing. (I also play other instruments, work more than full-time, have a family, and all the usual time-consuming obligations.)

I am hoping that writing this blog will encourage me to practice more (though it may just encourage me to write more).

I enjoy playing classical music, early music, fiddle and folk music, and want to try more improvisation. Maybe even jazz. My goals at the moment:

1. Always, to improve intonation
2. To feel more comfortable in the upper positions and tenor clef
3. To work on fiddle accompaniment and improvisation techniques
4. Generally, to feel more fluid and lyrical, more expressive and confident, to play the way the woman in the red dress looks.

Once, at a symphony concert, the cellist soloist came out on stage, looking gorgeous in her red dress. My young daughter turned to me and said, seriously, "Someday, mom, that will be you." Perhaps not, but it is good to have something to aim for.

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