Have you ever had somebody ask something general like “how’s it going with the cello [or any other instrument, for that matter]”. Have you ever wanted to ask a musician a question more open to possibilities of conversation than “how’s it going?” If so, maybe this post will help you.

I’m getting this question more often from friends and family, so I ought to get around to an intelligent answer. For most purposes, if I don’t feel like talking about it, I can always say “fine”, but I would like to give some people a hook on which to hang a conversation, should they so choose.

Although this question is exasperating, it is important to remain compassionate. Sometimes the interest is sincere, but the other person does not know what to ask.

Therefore, in a spirit of giving back, I offer you several approaches to answering the “how’s it going” question.

  • Are we ever going to hear you play?
  • How far does one get in two years
  • Should I try it?
  • Are you glad you took this up?
  • How much are your performing rates because we want to hire you right away
  • Why are you still doing this?
  • What do you like most about the cello?
  • Are we ever going to hear you play?
  • I will be putting more files up on youtube in the future. Generally, if you’re at my house, I won’t pull it out and create an impression where you feel you have to listen. But if you ask me to play something, I’ll try to oblige. I may ask what you might expect, first. In this regard, it might be helpful to have popular stuff like the theme from Star Wars in case they’re not wowed by Suzuki songs or Kummer études. For those who know it or care, I can show them how far I’ve come with the first four lines of Kol Nidre.

  • How far does one get in two years?

  • I’m generally at the point where I am enjoying playing more. Each time I sit down, I feel a little bit more connected. I trust my fingers and bow more so I can relax and play the music to a greater degree than earlier. I can also start to hear myself as I play.

    Musically, my ear is better as I am learning ways to hear fourths and fifths and train my ear towards a good resolution of a phrase.

  • Should I try it?
  • It depends on your motivation. Generally, all hobbies about which you may be serious will eventually rack up a major expense. So, don’t let money be the reason to say no.

  • Are you glad you took this up?

  • It’s still a great deal of fun, and now that I’ve gotten through a couple of spots where I thought I’d never figure out, I feel more confident in my forward direction.

  • How much are your performing rates because we want to hire you right away
  • It’s important to have a sense of humor about the process! After getting through the next year or two, I might consider helping beginners.

  • Why are you still doing this?

  • Because I love live music. Music should not be the exclusive use of professionals. Rather, it should be a skill that anybody can access with hard work and training. You don’t have to be a Samuel Pepys to enjoy being a diarist, and you don’t have to be Yo-Yo Ma to be allowed to express yourself musically. I think it’s an important thing to do. Also, a world of MP3s does not truly communicate the richness of having a beautiful instrument in the room. I want to make my favorite music for myself and others. I also like that amateur cellists have been around since the cello itself and have often made cameos on the “Pro-Am” circuit, when there used to be such a thing. Elgar wrote one of his Nimrod variations dedicated to a good friend who was an amateur cellist. [might have to dig up the link for this attribution]. According to a story that my teacher related during his performance, Brahms had performed the E major sonata with amateurs.

  • What do you enjoy most about playing the cello
  • I love finishing a piece with a satisfying double stop and letting the tones reverberate throughout the room

I guess, the answer could just be a quote from the Beatles: “I gotta believe it’s getting better, a little better, all the time!”