It has been a nightmarish week (my weeks run Thurs-Mon), full of last minute cancellations, which were followed by strongly worded emails about my lesson policy, which were followed by aggressive responses or sheepish apologies, which were followed by multiple students quitting in an exciting variety of manners (my favorite was the huffy email, but that’s just me) followed by the silver lining: two of my favorite erstwhile students returned to my roster after many months away. Still, I feel a little beat up, especially since I have not played for a week in an effort to stave off any serious injury to my left arm, taking away my most direct connection to zen.

From my website’s email inbox:

I just have to tell you that your posts amuse the crap out of me and give me hope at the same time. I’ve played cello from third through twelfth grade I’m at the point where I’m trying to decide whether or not I’m crazy enough to even attempt pursuing cello through college (and then I remind myself that I haven’t actually had time to pick up my cello in the last two months) or if I should just leave the music-making to the pros. But your writing about professionals having a hard time made me feel like it might just be possible for me to pull it off…or at least take a few classes at a university without completely humiliating myself.
That was a round-about way of saying that I thoroughly enjoy your blog and thanking you for making me feel like there’s hope for me yet.

I am so ready for this week.

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14 Responses

  1. You had a baaaad week, my dear. But you should know this, and if we do not say it as often as we should, it doesn’t make it untrue: You are an inspiration.

    (even for us non-musical artist types)

  2. I hope I’m one of your happy returns! And for your emailer – definitely keep going through college if you can carve out the time. I dropped it because I was pretty sure I’d never be good enough to be a professional, and I regretted it almost immediately. Cello can be applicable to your life in some very odd ways!

  3. Who’s the pretty kitty? He looks like he knows that you need a hug.

    And another rousing endorsement for playing in college. Heck, I played string bass in college, hadn’t even taken up the cello yet. There are so many benefits I can’t begin to list them, and professional goals are near the bottom of the list.

  4. Emily,
    I follow your blog and enjoy your posts. I started playing cello a few years ago, as an adult. It’s taking me a long time to learn, but I love it.

    I wanted you to know that there’s an award for you on my blog. Nothing formal or fancy, but an acknowledgement of your work.

    Hope it makes you smile!

  5. GGP: the cat is from cuteoverload, my main source for time wastingly adorable pictures. I really do need to get you guys some video of Lucy and her broken meow. It’s priceless: mk kaaaa!

    Anne: I left a comment on your blog, and it is much appreciated ANY week, but especially this one. Thanks so much. xx

  6. ugh,
    Teaching can be so unstable sometimes!

    I recently had a student quit for the first time … for the most part, I didn’t take it personally (nor should I have in this case) … but it’s still kinda a self-confidence hit …

    on an unrelated note, what would you say is a good amt. of time to tell a 10 yr. old that they should be practicing.

    Hope your arm gets better soon, and sorry to hear about that massage nightmare..

  7. It depends on the way they are in lessons. We need to thread the needle, don’t we? Ask for too much and they drop it, ask for too little and they don’t make progress and they feel hopeless! For most beginning 10 year olds who are motivated enough to take lessons, I ask for 15 minutes a day, 6 days a week for the first week. Usually that entails a scale up and down 2 times (1 time pizz if they are having trouble with the bow) then a little Schroeder, and probably a few measures a day out of Suzuki. If they seem hungry at the next lesson, I bump it up to 20 mins or more 5 days a week. The thing I encourage them to be is mindful, which is a tall order for kids this age. I also tell them that “playing” is not practicing. Ooh, and we have to keep them upbeat so lessons and practice don’t seem so grave. So I remind them that if their brains don’t hurt from working sooo hard, they’re playing, not practicing. Most lessons at this age are usually one new concept (hey look! let’s make some notes sharp) and then the rest of it is teaching them how to practice.

    More of a response that you bargained for. Sorry!

  8. I have trouble differentiating between ‘playing’ and ‘practising’ myself a lot of the time, and I’m certainly not ten years old! I seem to have a mental block about the term ‘practising,’ so I have to tell myself I’m going to play. It gives a different weight to what I’m doing, for some reason, and I take it more seriously.

  9. That comment about “if your brain’s not hurting you’re not practicing” resonates with me, too.

    If you need another idea for a video, how about this: a coached practice session with a student volunteer. Three minutes of “free practice,” then 10 minutes of “a better way.” It shouldn’t be hard to find a student to provide three good (bad) minutes of practice fodder!

  10. Oh GGP! I have so many ideas for videos but I don’t have a camera any more. (but I can sleep through the night and my pulse is in a normal range, so it’s not for nothing!)

    I also was thinking of conducting some “group practice” sessions, where I steer a similarly skilled group of people through a 40 minute session. I have a feeling that my late summer and fall will see me visiting a number of states east of the Mississippi…

  11. >> "Playing" is not practicing…if your brain's not hurting you're not practicing.

    Wow! I am so busted — you nailed me!

    Sometimes your comments following the posts have nuggets that are even more thought-provoking than the posts themselves. I resolve, starting now, to do more true practicing, and less playing around, in my alloted practice time.

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