Day one of my cello lessons. Gulp.I have that slightly sick feeling I used to get the morning of my piano lesson, which got worse as the day wore on. I never quite put my finger on why. Was it my miserable teacher, the type of woman who went to Venice and complained about the smell? Who knew that years later I’d find myself at the same college as one of her other students only to discover that her hectoring criticism and negative comparisons with other students’ playing wasn’t personal. It was a methodology based on the Protestant-ish notion that people will aspire to greatness when convinced of their own crapness. She was wrong and eventually I quit, which my mother said I’d regret and she was right. Or perhaps I was just nervous because I  hadn’t practiced enough.

(In fact, I saw my old piano teacher at a concert last Christmas. Alone, though I imagined her long-suffering husband was sitting in a car idling at the curb. I had a schadenfreude moment (her misery, not his). Did I spell that right?).

I admit that I used to have a similar feeling before my singing lessons, which I took of my own accord when I was in my 30s. Theodore Gentry was a real character and a wonderful jazz teacher. Formerly a counter-tenor he had given up singing after he had a stroke that paralysed him from the waist down. When I met him he was in a wheelchair with dreadlocks down to his bum, living in a first floor flat in Toronto’s Kensington Market which he shared with his cat, Cat (yes, just like Breakfast at Tiffany’s.) He made me cry a few times, but it was mostly my own fault. He knew when I wasn’t paying attention, when I was hung over, when I hadn’t practiced. On the other hand, he told me it was ok that I couldn’t scat (primarily a pscyhological feat, rather than a musical one, I discovered) and offered praise when it was earned. I don’t know what happened to Theodore. I rang him on one of my trips home, and his phone had been disconnected. Theodore was a 65 year old paraplegic, so I was scared. The guy who ran the Chinese downstairs told me he’d moved back to Indianapolis to ‘look after his parents’. Theodore was a 65 year old paraplegic, so that seemed weird.

Ready now. But first a question: am I too old for this?

Advertisements