Beginning Strings

I think about how I started playing cello. My parents signed me up for Beginning Strings class when I was in 6th grade, which was a surprise to me. I had a vague interest in playing clarinet, though for no particularly strong reason. The teacher, Warren Shelton, was a wonderfully intense, energetic man. When I walked in the class, I noticed a girl who had the same color skin as me--I had not met anyone the same color as me besides my sister up to that point. My mom is "African-American" (though she would really like to be known as Human), and my dad is of Russian-Jewish descent. We were not "White", on either side. Anyhow, this other brown girl in the Beginning Strings class was nice, and we sat together. It actually makes me a bit sad now that there is not always an acknowledgment of  mutual "Brown-ness" in Seattle anymore--up into my adulthood, there was a tacit understanding that you gave a nod or hello when encountering another "Other". But, that's another topic...

I knew I didn't want to play violin, because that was what most people wanted to do and I did not want to be like everyone else (perhaps because I was already "Other", or maybe because I'm a Leo?)  So, when the teacher asked if we wanted to play cello, this other girl and I said ok. I didn't quite know what a cello was at that point. My dad would take us to Seattle Symphony concerts sometimes, but I didn't know the names of everything. Well, we got our instruments, and I took my cello home (what a wonderful thing to have a public school program with instruments for us to have at school and at home), and I would pluck the open strings of my cello and listen to the resonance.

 In my room at home, I sat facing a wall so I could rest my endpin in the space where the floor and wall met. I plucked and bowed the open strings, feeling I had discovered a secret joy. It was love at first sound, I suppose. I had so much fun in that Beginning Strings class! The music teacher convinced my parents to get me private lessons after a year, and somehow they managed it in their budget. I still had a lot of innocence in my motivation to play music (before my teenage ego took over... though I got through that too), and our first concert was such a kick! We played a song called Rock Candy, and Mr. Shelton's wife accompanied us on piano. On that school stage, my whole world became this swirling rush of energy--I felt part of something wonderful. 

When I was in my twenties, Mr. Shelton passed away. I played at his memorial--first, Rock Candy, then, Bach. I am grateful for that Beginning. 

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