I play cello. I haven’t picked it up in a long time, but I still consider myself a cellist. I didn’t lug that giant thing back and forth on the school bus for nothing, after all.
I played in the school orchestra from fourth grade until graduation—literally, we played the national anthem at graduation. I miss the people more, perhaps. The conductor was with us from our first clumsy notes to our final hurrah, and many of my closest friends are cellists or violinists (we had a string orchestra separate from the band), but I miss playing music, too. I miss being in time with fifty other people, I miss breathing in sync with them under hot lights.
Beyond nostalgia, I miss being a “cello.” That’s what we were called, “the cellos,” and we had our own little culture. Cellos were always the bassline, so we flew under the radar most of the time. Since we were low and had easy parts, we shone in the conductor’s eyes. No one could come close to our low, booming radiance. We led the orchestra from behind, we drove the high-pitched melody of the violins. We made the audience feel the music vibrate in their ribcages. We made the curtains flutter with sound.
Being a cellist had its downsides, too. Since we had easy parts, we didn’t learn as much. We didn’t look as nice, and I already mentioned lugging the giant thing everywhere.
Worst of all, we couldn’t wear skirts or heels. Being a cellist meant having your legs spread and your feet flat on the floor. No skirts, no heels. I was restricted from wearing skirts to school for nine years. I didn’t mind too much, but playing a cello did result in feeling less pretty.
Maybe it was this lack of daintiness that gave us our power. I felt confident when playing the cello. We were the hidden powerhouse. People watched the violins, but heard the cellos, pounding away with strong arms all swaying in sync. I was hidden behind such a gorgeous instrument people forgot I was the one playing—which made me play all the better.
I miss the community, the strength, the power, the camaraderie, the beauty, the sound, the feel of a cello. I miss feeling the strings simmer beneath my fingers, I miss feeling the edge buzz against my knees. I miss the rattle my earrings made when I played too loudly. I miss the ache in my bowing arm, I miss the cramps in my fingers.
I believe music is something inherently human. Though it seems harder to be blind than deaf, music is the one thing that would give me pause if I had to choose one over the other.
Anyway, I bring all this up because I went back and watched my high school orchestra, or what remains of it 2 years after graduation, play their spring concert Thursday, and they were not great. It made me wonder if we sounded so mediocre from the audience when we played. Maybe it doesn’t matter. From our seats in the bright lights, music filling our lungs, we sounded magic. That’s all that matters in the end.