When I met Henri, he was a nameless cello that had come in as a consignment piece to Potter Violins, where I worked part time as a sort of gal-about the shop. He was far too loud, with too much quirk in his sound to appease other players. No, too rough around the edges for a professional. Of course, I loved him instantly and christened him Henri. As frequently as I could, I would abandon my post and play him, creating inside jokes and uncovering hidden sonorities. Our love affair was no secret, and in an act of hopeful generosity, they allowed me to take him home while I raised the money to purchase him.




There was something standing between us. And that something was a towering mountain of money.




With some help from friends far and wide, I was able to raise half of the money needed to bring us together. I am still astonished by how many people gave so much, and it continues to touch me deeply.




After the fundraiser, time went by and I could not find a way to raise the other half of the money. I began to lose sleep and think dark things.




One very early morning, after a night of little sleep, I came to the realization that if the money wasn’t there, I couldn’t have this cello. With tears rolling down my cheeks and a sense that I had disappointed everyone who had backed the campaign, I composed an email to the good people at Potter’s and played Henri one last time. Reality hurts.

But reality also meant that I had a fairly good chunk of change with which to find another cello.



And I have found another cello, and it is being worked on as I write this. It is not anything like Henri, nor will it have a name. But it is a fine instrument, and in need of love and appreciation: two things that through this experience, I have cultivated boundless amounts of.


So thank you, friends. Although things didn’t end up quite the way we had hoped, your generosity brought me to a better place. I could not have done it without you, and every note I play is dedicated to your kindness.

With affection,



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3 Responses

  1. Hi Emily

    glad you have found another instrument. I have just given up playing. I am one of those middle-aged cello tragics who took up the instrument at the age of 47. I had a fantasy of playing chamber music. I realise now that intonation is just going always to be problematic – and having insane performance anxiety – and difficulties concentrating – after 12 years, that mountain just got too high. Dragging myself off to practice in the evenings was never fun, either. Still, it is difficult to let go of a fantasy, such as any relationship is – and hard to replace that fantasy with iron reality. Henri will always be in your heart.

    My teacher’s son might be interested in my cello – that would be a nice rounding off. (If he is, I will give him a good price – I had a great teacher.)

    All the best with your new soul mate


    1. I hope I am not too greedy in my desire to be a better instructor, but I wonder about your problems and how they might be better addressed. I mean, it may be chicken or the egg: if practice caused dread, then your practice was probably not effective- but after 12 years of even imprecise practice (and I know many professionals who do not have an efficient practice) you should have had more success. DId you do ear training? Practice scales WELL with a tuner, meaning you can keep your fingers over the right place and not have to adjust them? As someone who started out with no stage fright and then developed it later on, I wonder about how your practice may have contributed to it. It’s the quality- the how- of your practice, that forms the experience of being a musician. I would very much like to see how you practice. If you’re resigned to tragedy, I completely understand. If, however, you’d like a second (or third, or umpteenth) opinion before accepting the diagnosis, I would happily Skype with you to see what’s what. Just a thought.

      1. Hi Emily

        your very kind offer really stirred me up, and I have thought about it a lot. Obviously I am not as over giving up playing as I thought I was. I must be angry and sad about it on some levels. I had the most interesting dream last night; I was in a karaoke Ring Cycle (makes sense, doesn’t it) and I got to sing Wotan. I can even remember the bit I chose – it was Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge, in Scene 4 of Rheingold. (I went to the Ring just recently here in Melbourne.) So that desire to perform is still there.
        But I think this was the right decision for me to take. Even if you are right about practice, and it can be made fun, or even less of a chore, I would still need to do more of it than I can. Part of the problem that emerged (not the only one) is that, as I am nibbling around the edges of better repertoire, without having any more time to give it. But as the pieces get more difficult, the bar is being raised to the point where I am getting found out. If I could not care, it would be easier, but I can’t not. So rather than struggling along and getting more frustrated, it is better to draw a line under it. But I do appreciate your offer.

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