Fancy Conn staff, my cello instructor included, performing even fancier music.

In an ideal world, I’d be able to call myself a rebel, disregarding social structures and disrupting standard functioning. Although it’s extremely cliche, the bad boy factor seduces me, being so far from the precautious worrywart I truly am, and I’ve never been fond of rigid discipline. I’ve convinced myself that my inner rebellious attitude is why I have made pitifully slow progress with the cello the past three years, an instrument that screams discipline, because it surely can’t be due to my lack of regular practicing. If you’ve never played a string instrument, count yourself lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing the cello, but the fact that placing my finger a literal centimeter off results in a different, and often squealing, note has always been discouraging, especially when it seems like that's the majority of the sounds I produce. Meanwhile my other hand manipulates a bow, which also requires its own techniques, so you can understand why I sometimes question if I’m a masochist, willfully subjecting myself to this wondrous yet torturous device.

I think part of the reason my cellist skills have been so stagnant is due to a lack of role models, so I have started attending performances that feature a cellist. This semester I had an opportunity to see my own cello instructor, Professor Christine Coyle, present a solo performance, something I’d never seen before, and of course I had to attend to figure out how many more years of practice I need to be on her level. I’d say I have a solid 30 more years of practice ahead of me. Half the time she played I was just in awe of the way she swayed back and forth, vigorously shaking her head and making wild facial expressions, visibly feeling it in her soul without a single mistake. My notes, on the other hand, are sometimes akin to taking a cheese grater to my ears. The emotion Professor Coyle was pouring into her music, which then washed over the audience, was like nothing I’d experienced before nor thought possible to produce.

Instead of discouraging me, that experience has made me want to learn even more so I can have the flawless technique and produce the dynamic sound she was making. I didn’t realize until then that musical learning, for me at least, is just as much about observing as it is practicing so that I can keep reminding myself of what I am working toward. After the concert, I enthusiastically congratulated Professor Coyle while secretly making her my No. 1 rival. At our next lesson, I told her about this, and she encouraged me to think of the instrument as a means of expression rather than merely something to play, and she suggested I add my own individuality to the pieces. Although I am still in the beginning stages of this, I have already heard a difference in my playing and have started to actually enjoy practicing. As a proper wannabe musician, I find myself thinking about practicing all the time and sometimes I even just pretend I am playing the cello, which I’m sure makes a spectacle since this usually happens when I’m bored in public spaces. This doesn’t bother me because it’s a necessary part of the path to becoming an awesome cellist. Hopefully, my playing one day will ignite a similar spark in others, that is, once I’m confident enough to actually allow people to listen.

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