I had joined a summer music program run by the Vancouver School Board that used the classrooms at Eric Hamber Secondary. I was in Grade 6 or 7, still in Elementary school. I had been playing violin for a while and wanted to play in an orchestra with others. My parents and I were looking at the description for the program. There were two groups, a "Beginners" and an "Intermediate". I'd been playing for a few years and I had private lessons, so I wasn't a beginner. The Intermediate blurb just said, "for students with a few years of experience." So, I thought, great, that's me.
When I got there on the first day, everybody sucked. Seriously. "Beginner" meant "just bought the instrument this morning." There weren't enough Intermediate level students to make up a full orchestra. There were just enough of us to make a small chamber group, a Trio or a Quartet if we pulled Elizabeth out of the beginners to play second violin. And if we were lucky, one of the instructors' teenage daughter, Alli, would graciously come in with her big double bass and we'd have a Quintet.
So they just combined everybody into the Beginner's class. Naturally, I became the Concert Master. A few of the more advanced players would get pulled out and do chamber pieces for the end of program concert. But we still had to participate in the full orchestra stuff.
When your skills are head and shoulders above everyone else, you're bored as all get-out. I was never the misbehaving kind of bored kid, but the instructors could see that I wasn't in the best spirits when I was in the main class. I was so much happier in the chamber group.
Violins are a very popular instrument. Everyone wants to play violin. It's that "limelight" mentality that parents push onto their kids, I'm sure. No one wants to play viola or even cello because they were seen as background, supporting roles. So, there was an overabundance of violins and only two or three of each of the other instruments.
Because I was basically sitting there doing nothing, I decided to learn cello. In the cello section, there was James (Principal Cello), Amanda and Pansy sitting by herself behind James and Amanda. That was perfect, I could sit with Pansy. I borrowed an extra cello from one of the instructors. It was a beautiful German cello with a very rich, deep sound. Pansy was a beginner as well, so we both helped each other out. James and Amanda were fairly competent, so they practiced with us.
Vibrato comes much easier on the cello than the violin. Blessed, blessed gravity.
The hardest thing to get used to, for me, was not using my second finger nearly as much as I do on the violin. I nearly ripped my hand apart several times because I'd forget that I had to put my second and third finger down together to get that note instead of just stretching out my second finger. =D
At one point, I'd shift my whole hand into second position so that it would feel more natural to me. But when the music isn't written for the shifting, it's easy to get messed up and it sounds like crap if you can't get it perfect.
Reading the bass clef took a while to get used to. But eventually, I worked through all of that.
I played well enough that the conductor asked me to do a cello solo for the final concert night. My solo piece was Mendelssohn(-Bartholdy)'s On Wings of Song, Op. 34, No. 2 with piano accompaniment. It's not that hard, but it was just challenging enough for me... though, I played it a bit slower than that one and I don't quite remember it being that repetitive. And I also figured out very quickly that female cellists can't wear short skirts... long black flowing skirts only. =)
I didn't persue cello lessons after that one summer. We couldn't afford both violin and cello, instruments and lessons. I stuck with the violin because it was smaller and easier to carry around. Sometimes I regret not taking cello lessons further, but ah well. Maybe in the future when I retire, I'll take it up again.
Oh right, the picture. I don't have the picture because it was taken on the afternoon of the last concert. I was promised a print, but I ended up not seeing the person who took it, so I don't have one. The doll will just have to do. =)