When I started playing cello when I was 9 years old, I had a lot of problems. I had anxiety, OCD, and low self-esteem, but most importantly, I had a really difficult time expressing these things in words. I didn’t like to talk about my feelings. To be honest, I still don’t.
But when I started taking cello lessons with my first teacher, I quickly realized that there was a different way to express myself. I had all of this balled up emotion and pain and I could finally express these feelings without having to talk. I was speaking I suppose, but through my cello.
Music helped give me a voice without having to talk.
Now more than twenty years later, I am a cello teacher in Bergen County, Northern New Jersey, and to students across the globe via Skype.
Is it possible for me to teach people how to express themselves through cello lessons?
The short answer is yes and no.
Every person has their own life experiences, trials and tribulations, joys, and fascinations. There’s no way for me to teach you how to feel something. The feeling has to come from within.
Nevertheless, cello playing is not all about feeling. What I can do is give people the skills, tools, and understanding of the cello to help express themselves. And this doesn’t mean that you have to be playing for 15 years and mastering the most complex concertos and sonatas. It can come from simply playing one note.
You might take your first cello lesson and be able to just bow the open D string. But maybe with that one note you can discover something about yourself. You can say something in a way you haven’t been able to before.
Now I know I’m sounding very new-agey and pseudo-spiritual here. I will admit there’s plenty of times that I play and the only thing I want to say are EXPLETIVES because I can’t seem to play a passage correctly.
I think that’s perfectly fine too.
But what I feel the most important thing about learning the cello is that connection to something deeper. You don’t have to be Yo-Yo Ma to experience it. That’s the beauty of it. As students progress and I help them gain more technical skills and facility on the instrument, they might have an easier time expressing what they feel, but it certainly doesn’t mean these feelings can’t be expressed from the very beginning.
So to anyone who is interested in exploring cello lessons for themselves or for their child, I say go for it. Learning cello is by no means easy, but it is so unbelievably rewarding. You can finally speak from the inside. I can help give you the tools to facilitate this on the cello, but ultimately the tools are just there to help communicate what you need to say to the world.
Speak without talking.