Passion is a driving force within all of us. Whether we decide at the age of 40 to learn the cello, or as a child, to become an engineer, a cook or a nurse, we set ourselves on the road to fulfilling a dream. Dreams though, aren’t all fanciful and perfect. We seem to always be holding opposites in order to grow.
When we begin a new piece of music, we start by not being able to play it. We break it down into chunks, we clap & count it, we play pizzicato, we do bowing patterns and learn slowly one step at a time. Gradually phrases and phrasing becomes more focussed; how we speak with the bow feels more natural. We are often amazed at the detail and the discipline required.
There are points though, and times in our learning when we feel overwhelmed, infuriated, frustrated and begin to doubt our abilities to get through to the other side. The chunks we thought were really okay, now aren’t. What’s going on?
I have seen pupils despairing sometimes, emotional and even wanting to give up occasionally. When you have seen someone play with ease, you subconsciously think this is easy.
This cello thing is so like life. We hit rocks and really hadn’t foreseen that these processes were going to challenge our sense of self. We thought we were going to learn the cello, not end up here. And then… we break through, everything comes together and the music flows. We have moved into a new phase.
Years ago I was interviewed on the telephone by someone from the RCM where I studied. They were speaking to students who’d been out of college anywhere from 5 to 30 years to see where their careers took them, and to see who was still in music, and if not, what had happened. At the end, I was asked what had been the biggest problem in my career, other than injury. I replied “Being me”. We both laughed, but it was true. Playing an instrument reflects your relationship with yourself from all the functioning, healthy aspects of you, to the mal-functioning, blocking parts of our selves. Our constant questions really are to ourselves, and how we will talk to ourselves next.
When pupils hit rocks, they imagine they are alone in this and possibly think they aren’t “meant” to be doing this. We are all being challenged all the time. We actually wouldn’t have it any other way. My message to anyone is, to quote Bob Dylan, “ Keep on keeping on”.