Wednesday, September 2, 2009


With the fall of this year comes Hedgie's first cello lessons.

In my family this is one of the most important rites of passage, the day you play the first sweet and terrible notes of your very own instrument. I can barely remember the details of my first violin lessons--I was only five--but I do remember how timid and awestruck I was--the only feeling that has come close since was the first time I held baby Hedgie in my arms, afraid to break her. How heavy the quarter-size violin was in my little arms then, how amazing the alchemy of bow to string and then sound...although the little screeches and scritches must have been dreadful indeed to the ears of my patient listeners.

My violin has been with me on my journey for nearly 35 years now, a steadfast companion always, whether spurned or beloved, through all the times musically fallow and musically fertile. Its sturdy presence shielded me from the parodically cruel tendency of Emily, my second teacher, to discipline by rapping her own bow hard across my knuckles. It was the helpful wing-man in my pursuits of a proto-Severus, black-haired Peter with the glowing pallor, the first violin in my high school string quartet (how I quavered under his gaze as he reminded me, with a haughty little tip of his bow, to come in on the correct note). My violin and I spent long afternoons together in the music rooms of my college, and it never complained that I took frequent breaks to stare out the windows at the rain, at the trees changing to fall and then from fall to spring...

We have come all this way from our long-ago beginning. There it is in the corner now, waiting for the rosined bow and for me.


  1. Someone once said that the most beautiful of notes played on a violin, come directly from the sensitive heart of the person who holds it.

    In your case.. I would have to agree.

  2. That's wonderful that you've had so much pleasure out of your violin for so many years. I hope Hedgie gets as much pleasure out of the cello.

    I tried to learn piano and guitar at different times but I just didn't have the aptitude. So my pleasure is listening rather than playing.

  3. i tried piano but i wasnt so hot. i made an even worse attempt at tenor horn and the bandmaster rapped me over the knuckles with a pencil. my days had already been numbered but they were less after that!
    turns out that band master is now a ccherished friend and he would be mortified if i reminded him!

    nice to have you back, your week away seemed long


  4. This is a wonderful intrument.I love how it sounds.Have a nice day :)

  5. The two things I wish my parents had imposed on me as a child are how to play instrument and how to speak a second language. My life is poorer for not knowing either.

  6. I'm glad it worked out for you and hope it does for Hedgie. I still regret the money my parents wasted - that they could ill afford - on piano lessons which I hated. All I wanted to do was sing.

  7. I like Jimmy's comment! And Hedgie with a cello; nice! She's got my encouragement and blessings :)

    And Leah, you mentioned the violin; I almost immediately had an image of Jack Benny playing his-LOL! Never played one but love the strings! Great post!

  8. That was beautiful to read :)

    I too have a teeny quarter sized violin that I learned to read music with....but I moved to the piano..

    I think my Theo will be old enough soon :o

  9. my first thought was...what day is this? but that has more to do with my

    very cool. i think kids should be encouraged in the prepares them for the future and gives a great outlet. love the violin.

    know she will have agreat time!

  10. what a lovely piece, sugar! xoxoox

    (this sent me back to the coconut krewe days of lessons and music teachers and finally figuring out it was easier (and cheaper) to have the teachers come to the house than me driving all across town.

  11. I always wanted to learn to play some sort of musical instrument, but it was my ungrateful brothers who received that privilege. I stared with longing at their violins, and picked one up on many occasions, trying to make music come out of it. It was not to be. I love the beauty of strings.

  12. Jimmy--I like that, I really do. And I also think that my style of playing is affected very much by my mood at the time I pick up my violin.

    nick--I'm a listener as well--and especially with something like piano, where the skill set is so utterly different, it seems quite magical to me.

    kylie--nice to be back! I think...what is it with these music teachers rapping us over the knuckles? Must be a thing...funny that you're friends with him now! I certainly could never say the same for my teacher!

    Candie--I agree, it is a wonderful instrument, but in the wrong hands can make a noise to wake the dead!!

    UB--I wish I had had a second language! They tried me on Russian as a babe, so that I could speak with my grandpa, but for some reason that eventually went by the wayside. How I wish it hadn't.

  13. Violins are difficult to play. But once you've mastered them you get the most wonderful sounds ever :)

    Here's to beginnings! Have a great month!

  14. Pat--Do you sing now, at least for fun? I sang too, though not especially brilliantly...and have made an odd transformation from Soprano to Alto in my adulthood...

    Subby--me as Jack Benny with violin--actually, I love it.

    Abi--thank you! We still have a 1/4 violin, but we had to make things hard and start Hedgie on cello instead! The tiny cellos are sort of funny, but it's going to be a beast anyway to carry to and fro (and guess who'll be doing the carrying!!)

    Brian--I know, I posted a full day early...I haven't been around so had to sort of plunge back in. We're true believers in the arts too, all of 'em. And regardless of whether or not one decides to get serious with an instrument, it's just nice to know how to play one decently I think!

    savannah--in my case, there will be a great deal of shlepping the cello back and forth around the neighborhood! The one thing to which I do not look that sense, I shall suffer for her art...

    Karen--it's never too late! My grandfather (I've probably mentioned it before) became quite good at flute in his 60s. And I've been thinking lately of mandolin lessons, as I've gone as far as I could on my own--but I'd have to barter for the lessons, as cash is not flowing free these days. Hmmm...barter...what do you think could be bartered?

    Marianna--to beginnings! And yes, violins are capable of the loveliest of sounds, on occasion... ; )

  15. Leah,

    I think that is a wonderful rite of passage and family tradition. I have always loved music (just not music instructors who love to rap knuckles).

    Best wishes for the incredible music journey that awaits your daughter.


  16. I excel at playing the world's smallest violin.

  17. The sound of a cello can be hauntingly beautiful.

    As I look around the room I see we currently have a piano, drum kit, two bass guitars, eight guitars, four tin whistles, and our current faves, two ukeleles!

    Music is such a huge part of our lives.


  18. What a trusted, old friend is that violin. A lovely story and legacy to pass on to Hedgie.

  19. I've never had musical talent. I had one piano lesson at age 7 and the teacher sent me home with a note to my mother that she didn't need me to come back again, that I had "no affinity and less aptitude" for the piano.

    My daughter, on the other hand, plays violin, piano, and harmonica and is good. She never has to be prodded to practice. Plus, I think it comforts her, she sees her instruments as her friends, I can tell. I like it that she has that as you seem to as well.

  20. OMG!
    "rapping her own bow hard across my knuckles" is downright Dickensian!

    I'm certain that you could successfully sue for damages.
    Jiminy Cricket talk about your basic pain & suffering-mental anguish settle out of court bob's-y'er-uncle type suit.

    Let's hope that sort of tomfoolery has been laid to rest..of course if Hedgie even hinted or suggested or implied that this sort of nonsense may or may not have been going never know these days...
    well, she would make a believable witness and the jury would love her..alright alright, but there is plenty of money to be had which could pay for a lifetime of violin lessons?

    Just sayin' is all.

  21. Have missed you Leah :)

    How often do you play? I am sure it won't be long before Hedgie's sounds are astounding you and filling you with pride :)

  22. U--thanks for the kind comment. I have high hopes for Hedgie's musical journey too--that she may get a many years of enjoyment out of it--

    MJ--then you and your tiny violin are always welcome at all my pity parties.

    mapstew--it's wonderful to have music in the family, isn't it. And music always begets more music! We've got two mandolins, five guitars, a violin, several harmonicas, two recorders and a penny whistle in our house. Too bad our families can't get together for a hootenanny.

    Ronda--you're right, I do sort of personify my violin. It just seems to have a character all its own.

    Maria--I'm so glad for your daughter! My violin really is a friend, and you're right, it can be very comforting. It's so stable somehow.

    Donn--I hadn't even thought of a lawsuit! Ingenious of you good sir, and after all, it is the American way! Music lessons for all--after we settle the suit, of course-- ; )

    Cinnamon--aw, thanks doll, it's so nice to be missed! My brief blogging hiatus was helpful to my work I think, but I did miss it around here in the interwebs, I will admit.

  23. I feel the same way about the piano. Too bad they're not as portable, no?

    I actually tried to learn the violin, but the school gave me a trumpet instead!

    Blasted 4th-grade music teachers...

  24. I don't play an instrument at all and am very much in awe of anyone who can make more than a screech from a violin or that most female of instruments, the cello. Thankfully I am one who appreciates the wonderful sounds that emanate from these gorgeous things. And, if you need new strings, I'm happy to doinate fine pure blood Arab horse hair!

  25. That's very lovely. I love the sound of a violin with or without an orchestra - and it's amazing to see it being played live - i've seen it numerous times but im still amazed.

    Music is a huge part of my life too - although Ive never learned how to play an instrument - but I used to sing almost everyday. But learning an instrument is something I will insist my future children do.

  26. I admire anyone who can bring a violin to life. It's an instrument I play, only in my dreams. Lovely post.

  27. It must be wonderful to have such a close relationship with music. Inspiring post. Thank you

  28. Jeff--I'm so envious of any ability to play piano! Though too true, it's not so portable. We're in a brownstone walk-up with twisty stairs, and I don't even think we could get a piano up here at all...more's the pity, or I might take up a second instrument...

    Baino--I'd never thought of the cello as female, but of course, you're right with that stunning figure! Fine Arab horse cool would that be?

    reyjr--truth be told, I'm still pretty amazed when I see a classical violinist or really good fiddler, with their fingers flying over the strings...

    willow--I play it in my dreams too, sometimes with more skill than in real life--

    Alan--thanks for visiting! It is a funny, wonderful relationship I've got with my old fiddle. I really do love him.

  29. Violin...cello....I love the sounds of both!

  30. Oh how I wish I would have kept up with my piano lessons! We're getting our daughter into it this year. Let's hope she's smarter than I was...

    I wonder if Severus plays the violin?

  31. my little one is now playing his first college notes...the years go by in a second!

  32. So, you play violin, Hedgie's starting on cello... Does Sgt. Pepper by any chance play viola? Are you working on a trio, maybe? Heh, heh! It sounds like you have a wonderfully harmonious future in store!

    I took up the flute at 8 yrs old, but the instrument I now own that I'd be hard put to part with is my mountain dulcimer (that's what I'm holding in my avatar picture). Something about strumming and playing a melody over a drone is just so mesmerizing...

  33. Lovely post and best of luck to Hedgie. I am unfortunately the offspring of a mother who hated piano and never saw fit to give me a go. I did learn a bit of organ, but did not like organ music all that well.

  34. Good luck. I envy you. I tried playing clarinet for a few years, but gave it up. Now the piano... that's something I would give a go.

  35. I remember my first attempts on the piano. It was and is another great creative outlet. You're a great mom for introducing this to your little Hedgie.

  36. I'm putting "learn how to play an instrument" on the list of things to do in the next 10 years that I've been compiling.

    Thanks, Leah.

  37. Hi baby, I've missed you too! Oh my goodness I have. I've just been dealing with this damn ankle and really, honestly, it's NO FUN!!! I just got my 6th cast today in 21 days. (Don't blink too hard darling, you might hurt yourself.) Yes I'll blog about it when I get the energy. I spent the day in the doctor's office. No really, I did. Went in at 10:30, got out at 4:00. Of course with a new cast. My 5th hard cast went on yesterday and it was a really lovely purple. Came off so fast I didn't even get a photo!!! I'm back in a soft cast (splint) until next Wednesday, then back in a hard cast (hopefully) until the 14th when I get it removed and have more x-rays. I know, it's insane. Thanksgiving's not looking too good!!!

    I love this post because you know Cailee plays the violin. Her PURPLE one!!! Like you, baby, those first few months hurt. Her only friend seemed to be Anoki (her dog!). I'd listen over the phone and think "Anoki, you're a Saint baby." But as we've discussed, she got better and better and then really good. Wow. And for her it seemed to happen fairly quickly. Probably because Aunt Suzy was always on the photo saying "Honey can you play some Vivaldi for me, or some Mozart? How about some Handel?" And if she couldn't, she'd learn by my next call and play her heart out. Squeaks and all!!! She even posed with her purple violin on her 16th birthday as you might recall, so I understand the love of an instrument and the affection you have for yours. I especially loved the image of you sitting in the window watching the rain with it. That's just beautiful darling. It would make a stunning black and white photo.

    I hope Hedgie has a wonderful time learning to love her cello. I do worry about it's size however. Do they downsize that thing for kids!!!??? God I hope so! Hedgie's tiny and that thing's huge!!! For some reason I see it as a New Yorker cartoon. It opens with tiny Hedgie presented with her first cello. The next cartoon is the chair tipped over, Hedgie splat and the cello's on top of her. The little bubble reads, "Mama, I can't get up."

    I hope the case has wheels.

    Love you darling. This really is a beautiful story about love and passing it on.


  38. I'm going to print your post and send it to my niece. I know it will touch her heart. She's now in college, but of course still plays the violin and still in a quartet.

    And yes, it's good that Alan is coming out. He'll be here Monday. I'll keep you informed. Love you so. XO P.S. Hope all's well.

  39. Betsy--me too, and they sound marvelous together!

    RC--I would love Hedgie to play piano too, but alas there's no real way to get one into our house. Damn these NYC 19th century walkups. You know, now that you mention it, I wonder about Severus and the violin. If he played anything, it would probably be that...but he'd be too technically perfect and not enough soul. I'd have to show him how to loosen up.

    Tom--college! oh dear. It does seem to fly. I won't be surprised when I wake up tomorrow and find her in college too.

    Roy--I love the dulcimer! And maybe I will get Sarge to pick up a viola. Think of the fun.

    e--organ! wow. We actually have one of those Victorian house organs in our living room, but it wheezes so much that no one dares touch it...

    Wings--never too late to start lessons! You should totally try piano!

    liza--thanks! I really hope she enjoys it. We waited a couple of years--I started at five, but it seemed so young when it came time for Hedgie. Eight seems about right. Maybe she'll practice more than I did!

  40. Megan--you seriously should and I'm not kidding! We have a bunch of people in my family who started instruments even in their 70s!!! I've been thinking too of taking up a new instrument, or at least lessons for my mandolin, as I'm turning 40 in January. It seems sort of like a good new beginning...

    Suzy!--I'm so happy to see you out and about, but be careful of your poor foot!!!! Your cartoon is LOL-funny. I could so totally see it. However, the little kids cellos are definitely scaled down. But they're still humongous! I will have to get something with wheels. Argh, I don't look forward to lugging that thing up four flights of narrow 19th century stairs every single day. Hedgie offered to practice in the downstairs hall!

    tons of xs and os

  41. Music is a wonderful tradition to pass on. So sad that so many schools have eliminated it from the school program or made it to expensive.

    Play on.