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Friday, December 08, 2006


Open Letter to a Kid Discouraged with the Cello

Dear Barkat Kid,

First, I think you should seriously consider becoming an outlaw. "The Barkat Kid" is a moniker that is just too cool to pass up.

So, here's the deal. I heard you are discouraged with the cello.

Your mom says you are good at the piano. Yea! I wish I could play it well.

Knowing that you are good at the piano, I'm going to make a little leap here. But I also suspect that your talent with the ivories is partly to blame for your frustration with the cello. You know what good music should sound like. And you know that the squeaks and sqawks coming from your cello are something else entirely.

The cello is so hard. Hard even to play in tune. And you probably feel like you are years away from sounding the way you know good music should sound.

But your mom has these free lessons. Maybe you can agree to a trial period? Maybe you can set some specific goals you need to achieve during that time measure your progress? To feel better about the instrument? Maybe lessons for a year allows enough time to test it?

You know. I'll bet your mother secretly wishes she could play the cello. Maybe you feel like she is forcing her ambition on to you. That's a divisive way of putting it, but it raises another question. What if your mom took cello lessons with you? She'll probably kill me for suggesting this. [UPDATE: in the comments, L. L. Barkat reveals that her husband has the cello ambitions. Hey, man, I can't blame you. I have similar guitar ambitions. But no guitar discipline.]

Also, the cello can feel like a very serious instrument. Try to remember what it means to play an instrument. Don't work the cello. Play it. Enjoy it--even when it feels like the cello is always winning. Eventually, you'll get it. Someday, you'll play that game and win. Checkmate. If you can learn to love it, you'll master it slowly, but surely.

Finally, see if you can find some cello mentors. Not your teacher, of course. He or she is hopelessly prejudiced toward the cello. Older high school students who play well, might work.

Finally (that's a second finally), you may be interested in the music by our youth minister and his wife. Lady Jane Grey. They play Texas Folk with guitar and--you guessed it--cello. And if you get a chance, you should definitely read Midnight Hour Encores by Bruce Brooks. It's about a young cello player.


(just another adult who wants you to keep playing cello because he wishes he could play cello)

great letter, Mark. I must say it is mostly her dad who wants her to play. And last night during my nightly waking hours, I was thinking he could take lessons with her!! I know he wishes he had taken the piano when his parents offered and he balked and never did.

Did I say "great letter"? I think I'll be back here to read it again. But you should come and leave your link at Seedlings, so everyone else can come too. :)

How much do you charge for babysitting?!!

'Cause you just took a girl lost in tears over the thought of cello lessons and made her smile. And she liked Lady Jane Grey. And she made me sign up on the Lady Jane site, to know when the CD is available.
That makes me happy!

I'll see if I can get Lady Jane Grey to send some CDs your way. (But I'll need you to email me a physical address.)
So, does that mean you babysit for free? :)

If you contact me via the "Contact Me" link on Seedlings or on my regular website, I'll send the address right along. I was especially thinking, too, that I'd like to pass her music on to my father. He's a DJ for a bluegrass radio station down south (among other things. )
"Hey, man, I can't blame you. I have similar guitar ambitions. But no guitar discipline."

It's never too late! Buy one of those cheap 100 dollar ones, tune all the strings to the same note and start a noise band. (NB - you could probably forego buying a guitar entirely and still start a noise band!)
Wow. What a fantastic letter. I don't have kids or any intention of having them, but I remember what it was like to BE a kid and just, well, wow. What an encouraging and sensitive and light touch you have demonstrated here.
Matt, I know I could still learn. In fact, the lead guitarist in Lady Jane Grey didn't pick up a guitar until he was nearly 25! That's pretty amazing to me. Still, with two young kids, it just isn't the time for me to start learning new hobbies. Maybe some day.

Christianne, you are sweet. I can't take credit for anything other than ten years of experience with kids in the classroom, though. Every public school teacher who loves kids learns to speak their language.
Nice letter, Mark. And I do love cello music. It's versatile, and does go so well with guitar, and in other musical settings. Good thoughts to hopefully help her over this first mountain.
Thanks for the comment, Ted. I have great admiration for your blog and your comments in the blogosphere!

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