Miss E arrives for her fourth lesson, sets her cello on her instructor’s living room couch, and lies down next to it. I am mortified. She is nine. I do not – cannot? – comprehend. “Up!” I say. “Not cool.”
I am certain there’s another way to handle this, a way that avoids that smoldering look she aims at me before she stands, slowly, before she unzips her cello case slowly… slowly, slowly… without looking at her cello, without looking at her teacher, without looking at me. I imagine there is a better way to instill self-discipline, but I don’t know what it is.
Why does she want to refuse?
There is silence in the room now. My daughter finally shuffles over to the music stand with her bow in one hand, her cello in the other, both precarious, and this is how it happens…
The cello instructor nods as Miss E approaches her chair, and quietly, matter-of-factly says, “I know. It’s so fun and exciting at first. Then you realize it’s a lot of work. And it’s hard. And then, you get to start playing things you like… and it gets fun again.”
This. This is the other way to handle it.
“Really? How?” She is dubious still, but perhaps willing to be convinced.
Her instructor then plays the cello. Beautifully.
When she pauses, Miss E (now enthralled), blurts out, “That sounds good! What IS that?”
Her instructor replies, “It’s in your book.”
“Let’s tune you up, and I’ll show you where it is.”
Miss E straightens her back and asks if she’s holding her bow right.
For me, it was acting – theater – developing a play for performance, building a character, memorizing lines. I opened myself to the people around me. We relied on one another – failing, falling, finding the low-burning flame from within, fanning the flames, finally filling ourselves with the fire, trusting, trusting, trusting.
I found myself. I found structure. I found pride. I found community. I found passion and purpose.
What I learned in the theater, I applied to my life.
I want this for my daughter.
I don’t know if cello will be that opening for her. It may be something else. But I long for that drive, that hunger for something larger than herself that will strengthen her tenacity, teach her to risk failure, and trust in herself.
Towards the end of my daughter’s lesson, a high school student enters the house with a cello strapped to her back, and smiles at each of us. “When did you first start playing cello?” the instructor asks.
This older girl considers the question, swinging the cello off her back, unzipping her coat. “Um… when I was in fifth grade. I think. Yeah, fifth grade,” she says.
My daughter stands with her mouth open wide. She’s heard this young woman play. I watch her do the math in her head. She’s in fourth grade now.
I don’t know if this will make tonight’s practice easier. Or harder. I don’t know. But I see my daughter set her sights on something as we walk out the door.
#CelloLessons #LifeLessons #This
Image by Turidoth (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons