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A study published this month in The Journal of Neuroscience looks at free music programs aimed at at-risk kids, and finds that studying music improves performance in the human brain. Youth Radio’s Scott Lau went through a similar program, and is now a freshman at USC studying music business and the cello. Lau contributed his story about how playing the cello has changed him.
If you walked into my house at two a.m, you’d hear the quiet ticking of the battery powered clock on the living room wall, the muffled snoring of my family, and my loud cello playing.
Sometimes my parents wake up and grumpily ask if I know that they have work in five hours. I know, but I can’t stop.
I started playing cello in 6th grade. Originally, I imagined myself playing violin, getting all the beautiful melodies in orchestras and ensembles. But because there were too many violinists in my middle school, I was assigned an instrument that was two octaves lower.
At first, it was a love-hate relationship. Playing Pachelbel’s Canon in orchestra was the worst. For me, it’s the same five notes over and over again: D, A, B, F#, G, and I look jealously at my friends who get to play the soaring melody we’re all familiar with.
Still, I feel attached to the cello — the way I embrace the instrument while I play, and the way the strings send vibrations through the wood and into my chest.
And more than that, I think we share the same personality. In school and with friends, I often find myself in “cello mode” — listening and harmonizing, and occasionally allowing myself to shine.
In class, sometimes I catch myself waiting for others to share their ideas before I chime in, interjecting my comments every once in a while.
Even though I’m studying cello in college, there’s a part of me that still wishes I played violin. It’s the part that yearns to be noticed and respected by others. But really, I’m a person who doesn’t like being in the limelight all the time. The cello fits better with my natural temperament and informs the way I live my life off the stage. I’m more aware of when to step out of the texture and when to blend back in.
I don’t get to be star of the show, but I don’t always have to be… because even though you won’t necessarily notice my sound when it’s there, you will definitely miss it when it’s gone.