The reason that this “recent events” post has been delayed is because there have been so many “recent events” recently!
After driving through the corn and soybean fields that lay between Bloomington Indiana and Northfield Minnesota, I found my way to St. Olaf College of Northfield MN. St. Olaf is the home of Professor Anna Clift’s summer institute Cello: An American Experience. The program consists of 20 national and international students ages 15-22 who come to study in a cello intensive environment. Our days are filled with practicing, lessons, masterclasses, and concerts with world-class faculty. As CAAE’s Artist Apprentice intern, I have organized and coached chamber music, worked with our faculty and staff, and mentored students on topics ranging from practice strategies to their goals for personal and professional growth.
For this post, I would like to draw a conclusion from the observation that many cello professors have made independently. The art of practicing seems to be very elusive for students of the “Millennial Generation”. Our smartphones, tablets, and computers have induced a sort of “learned incompetence” over our brains. Patience and perseverance are not our strongest virtues in and outside of the practice room.
1. If it doesn’t happen the first time or second time, we are apt to give up.
2. If something is close, but not exact, we are satisfied with “good enough”.
Therefore, I believe that the cello is a sort of Instrument of Truth. By that I mean that, like a mirror, the sounds we make on the cello are a reflection and projection of ourselves (as an abstract entity, either consciousness or a soul) into reality (the physical world). Once sound is made, the truth, whether full of beauty or ugly in nature, becomes tangible. The truth may include but is not limited to how much we have practiced, how nervous we become, how well we keep “in character”, and hopefully, our musical gifts. When I sit down with the cello, I have to be incredibly honest with myself otherwise I will trick myself into believing many false notions. “That was almost in tune” and “I’ll get it next time” are phrases that should be eliminated from the mind. This requires courage, perseverance and patience. I am reminded of the words of William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Thank you to all of our faculty, staff, and students at CAAE this summer, especially Prof. Anna Clift and Prof. Bruce Uchimura for giving me this opportunity.