Have you listened to Yo-Yo Ma? Of course you have. If you’re a musician, you know him well. If not, you have most definitely heard his gift in playing the cello, and just his name alone is pretty awesome. I love the cello! Had it not been for my two older brothers already choosing cello, and then viola, I would have chosen the cello as my instrument. I grew up listening to cassette tapes, and then CD’s of Yo-Yo Ma’s flawless and moving performances, and watching my eldest brother excel as he learned the cello. I think I was more familiar with the cello repertoire than the repertoire for my own instrument! I loved it, and still do.
Years ago, Strings Magazine featured Yo-Yo Ma with his thoughts on Intonation, Practice, and the Role of Music in our Lives. There is so much I drew from his insights, but one is really beating in my chest today, making me appreciate my practice, and my life and living even more.
“I actually enjoy practicing more and more…as a child, I practiced because I had to practice and [I] didn’t want to mess up. But thats not a good thing. You want to please your teacher, you want to please your parents, you want to please your peers. And now I practice because I’ve experienced so much love that [I] practice out of loving a phrase, loving a motivic change or the way a sound can get to something.”
Chills Yo-Yo. Chills because yes! I have felt this so deeply as I have progressed on the violin over the years. It seemed to come so easily as a child and as a teen. I was fearless, but motivated by achievement and pleasing my parents, my teachers and peers. I gained abilities and skills, but the emotion and feeling had to come later. My practice is so different now. It is motivated by love, moved by deeper life experience, tragedy, trauma, pain, and also SO MUCH JOY! There is a depth, a reservoir of life to draw on as I feel movement and phrases in the music in a different way. This shift over time excites me because I know there is still much to experience and change as I get older.
Yo-Yo Ma’s words are true. True for me. I couldn’t help but replace the word ‘practicing’ with ‘living’ because it felt so applicable to where my heart is now.
“I actually enjoy [living] more and more…as a child, I [lived] because I had to [live] and didn’t want to mess up. But that’s not a good thing. You want to please your teacher(s), you want to please your parents, you want to please your peers. And now I [live] because I have experienced so much love that [I live] out of loving [a memory, time together, the way the sun shines through the clouds, the joy on my daughter’s face first thing in the morning, the simple blessing it is to progress each day, the chance to do and to be better, the privilege it is to learn, to repent, to forgive, to love….]”
Living is much like the process of practicing. Life is first about learning rules, discovery, and often pleasing parents and others. But life has had a way of teaching me now, as an adult, to savor it a bit more, to be grateful for it, to notice the small blessings and miracles all around me. I see each day differently now than last year or the year before because I am changing with life experience. I am so grateful for the process of and chance to become a little better each day.
Today, I am setting out to notice the deeper connections and feeling in my violin practice, and to feel that same deeper connection to the ‘phrases’ and ‘motivic changes’ of my life as I go about my day.
“It’s a good day to have a good day.”