I was talking with someone about the upheaval that’s been a characteristic flavor of the past few years, and he said, “Well, I know you: it’s about time for your next reinvention.” At the moment, I didn’t think much of it, but after a few days of simmering I think he’s about as wrong as you can get, though well-intentioned.

True, I have done things that have taken me the furthest deep-space reaches away from things that are at my core; but I have been orbiting the same star, even at the most distant apogee. So as summer approaches, the radius shortens. I have taken a leap of faith and given notice at the part time job that has seen me through the threadbare seasons of the past year.  There is no plan B, nothing lined up to supplant the old position. There is no way I can write and teach and play the way I need to unless I have the time to devote myself singularly to these things. I have stopped looking for the megabucks job that doesn’t exist. I’ve stopped self-loathing because I need to practice before I try to run Dvorak. I’m not worried about impressing the ghosts in Los Angeles.

The vehicle through which I’ve found this grace was, as it turns out, the selling of my cello. It was the most unthinkable, heartrending, ghastly thing I’ve had to do as an adult- and this includes difficult breakups, risky surgeries and generally putting myself out there like a jackass. The cello is me. I might talk a mile a minute, but the cello is my voice. My last refuge. An essential bit of pantomime that allows me to be authentic and imperfect. Being forcibly separated from the comfort of owning an instrument has given a new purity to my purpose, and nearly one year later I am more awake and in tune with my identity as I ever have been. This is not reinvention: it’s distillation.

Like Rostropovich famously said, I am a human first, a musician second and a cellist third. The past year has given me an opportunity to balance the way I see myself and not rely on outside measures of success as confirmation that my humanity, musicianship and cello-ness are not up for debate- or for sale.

So now I’m ready for more risk: I’m going to ask for help buying a cello. I believe I’ve found one, and the shop who has it is willing, astoundingly, to sell it with a zero margin of profit. I’m taking it out on trial to play it for some colleagues and record a video so you can hear it, and then we can hopefully move forward. In return, aside from doing things like offering lessons, downloads, copies of my book etc to sponsors, I will donate the cello’s cost (I think it will be around 300 hours) in lessons and sectionals for folks who couldn’t normally afford them, as well as volunteering with charities, which I am happy to take suggestions on. So far, I want to work with TAPS, Society for Arts in Healthcare, and of course any way Walter Reed and the USMC feel like using me.

This is going to be a huge endeavor, so I would appreciate your advice and input. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. With any luck, I’ll hit the road with more frequency in the coming months and years, and I’ll be able to demonstrate my gratitude for your support in person.



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7 Responses

  1. I’ll keep some funds set aside, once you have specifics lined up. Especially given how much work you are planning to do, I’m wondering if you can set yourself up as a charitable foundation so that donations can be tax deductible. It might help offset your own expenses in doing said charitable work. But that’s just an educated guess; consult a real expert first.

    Look forward to seeing your video.

  2. You are amazeballs! “Distillation” is a great concept, and one that some people never dare try. I’ve been there myself and am all for your adventure! I will happily do what I can to support you — #GoEmily

  3. Have you thought about a Kickstarter fund? I’m willing to offer some money, whether you do that or something else. You’ve been a huge help to me and my celloing, and I feel indebted.

    I certainly remember that story you wrote at the time, and it was deeply moving.

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