One of the things I fear most is being personally exposed or of failing. Consequently I only ever do things that I know I will excel in and once mastered I usually move on to my next mission. For my whole life I’ve established a veneer around myself avoiding anything that would expose my shortcomings and leave me open to criticism or ridicule. This comes, I believe from a range of issues I had in my formative years and I have been working towards gaining acceptance and trying to develop some confidence for many years. I would probably be considered as a high achiever by most who know me in the workplace because I always strived to reach the top and make certain I was in the lead position.
A few years ago, I was promoted, committed to a full time job and decided that with the extra income I would do something for myself that had been a smouldering desire in me since I was a child. MUSIC! My two choices as a child were cello or piano, I was never allowed to study playing a musical instrument of my choice, (I was bought a guitar and just baulked so that was the end of that!) and on the basis it would be a five minute wonder, no further discussion was entered into.
My new mission- learn to play the Cello.
Fed up with watching people play music and wishing I could, I was continually hearing that you can’t learn as an adult, only kids succeed, and from those who know me, it won’t last long! I was sure it was too late to start and when a good friend who is multi-talented said “Just do it, its all about practice” I thought why the hell not? At least I would have tried rather than just whinged forever that I didn’t get to try. The following day after her assurances, I Googled adult cello teachers and actually made contact with someone who said she supported adult learning and could fit me in. Shit, I had to follow through now!
Living in Gippsland I had to go to Moorabbin for my first lesson, fear factor set in but I went. Oh shit, what am I doing here? Mid fifties, hands that have had joint fusion on arthritic joints, no hope in hell. Breathe, breathe, breathe……I had to sing to see if I had any concept of pitch…. ..god more exposure, hyperventilating I did it and got through that. OK we’ve started!
My teacher said she hired instruments, I said OK and hired one for 10 weeks, promptly came home, dropped the cello breaking the bridge (didn’t know that’s what it was called then!) and had to spent $100.00 having the instrument repaired. The bridge is the bit of timber the that suspends the strings. Lesson 1-lay cello on side and don’t stand upright, they fall over!
I kept going back, again and again, I was really proud of my commitment, not so proud of how I was playing. I do NOT do things I am not good at, so it surprised everyone that I continued. I would still not let anyone hear me play, not even practicing if family were near. No way would I ever let anyone hear me because I knew I sounded crap. I was however, really enjoying the process though!
Now a few years down the track, I was getting bored with practicing by myself and knew if I wanted to continue I would have to expose myself to play with others (bare in mind, I wouldn’t even practice in front of family). My teacher thought it was a great idea but I was scared to the bottom of my socks. I had heard somewhere about community orchestras set up so beginner players have the opportunity to develop their skills. Back into Google again searching for community orchestras, surprised I found the Francis & Latrobe Orchestra in Traralgon (which is not too far from me) and with extreme hesitation I sent through an email enquiring about joining. I did point out that I was a hesitant beginner but wanted to grow. I can be a victim of panic attacks when I am really out of my comfort zone and already my mouth was dry and palms sweaty. Oh dear, what have I done?
Much rescue remedy on the tongue, hyperventilating and extremely anxious I went along determined that I would just watch. Everyone was very supportive and encouraged me to take my cello out of the case. Bad decision! Lessons and practice in the safe environment of my lounge or with my teacher don’t come any where near preparing you for what goes on in an orchestral environment. Not being able to read music well, I didn’t even know what page they were on and I was just freaking out generally so I don’t think I coped too well. Do or die! I knew I had to extend myself if I wanted to continue playing or give up.
Vote 1 – continue, so suck it up and press on.
With some amazing support from my wonderful cello teacher, a couple of other players and the conductor of the Francis & Latrobe Orchestra I pressed on and set the end of year performance as my goal to make my debut. I did, and I didn’t cry or run away. Didn’t even have a panic attack! My goal now is to continue with the orchestra, continue my lessons and just get better. Sometimes when I hear all that beautiful music going on around me, I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing in the middle of it. I stop and think that this is the most amazingly, beautiful thing in the world, and I’m part of it. I know I’ve still got a long way to go -but I’m on the way. Oh, and I don’t do photos either, so this is a double whammy of disclosure!
Thanks Meg, Thanks Keryn, Thanks Richard, Thanks Geoff.