The story of my current cello:
Growing up, my mother knew it would be important for me to study piano to be good at school (and just a good human being.) So I did, and I loved it. In fourth grade, one of my best friends said I looked like a “cello person” so I joined the orchestra and played a school instrument. Cello was something that came easier to me at that time, and I asked for a cello of my own so I didn’t have to play one of the severely loved cellos owned by the school. And my mom’s response was “no problem – when you are 17.”
She assumed it was a passing fancy, but didn’t count on me dogging her to switch my lessons from piano to cello for years. Once I was able to drive, she finally agreed to drop piano lessons and let me drive myself to Carol Work’s every Saturday morning. Before my senior year I turned 17 and asked her how we went about getting this cello, and she admitted she hoped I had forgotten. (Don’t cry for my piano – I still have it and play it regularly!)
At the All-State conference in the fall of my senior year, I wandered through the exhibits and happened upon the William Harris Lee Co. booth. The 5 string cello was a big draw for a lot of us students, and we each took our turns drooling over it. But then I tried a few others, and fell in love with this Claus Deutscher cello that just sounded so aggressive. Being wonderful salesmen, they offered to let me keep it for the weekend and if I didn’t like it I was welcome to send it back to them in Chicago.
My incredibly giving mother agreed it was miles better than anything she had heard and we figured out how to pay for it, and knew I would grow into it a bit more and it would sound even better.
Fast forward 17 years later, and I didn’t grow an inch. My cello sounds even better today than it did when it was brand new in 1999, but my hands stayed as tiny so my ability to get around the fingerboard and to thumb position has been a challenge. I didn’t even know a 7/8ths sized-cello was a thing until years later. So now that I’ve been able to try a smaller size and things feel miles easier, I have committed to finding a cello I love as much as my own that fits me better. (Talk about an emotional change, y’all.)
Cody and I trekked to Michigan Ave in Chicago (a block south of where I used to work!) to the Fine Arts building to their shop and showroom. The building is seriously old-school – look at the elevator that needs to be operated manually:
Having 7/8ths or small full-size cellos on hand isn’t something most people just have lying around, so they only had a partially finished cello currently. As they finish it (and others) they will be sending them to me to try, and I can’t wait.
Given this rare opportunity I, of course, played nearly everything they had in stock of their full-size cellos and fell in love with a beautiful and powerful Gary Garavaglia cello that had such a beautiful tone and, if I’m being honest, almost had me saying “well, I’ve dealt with big cellos this long – I think I can just deal with it forever so I can buy this one” but luckily my pragmatic husband helped me keep my focus. But isn’t she pretty?
(photo from whlee.com)
They did give us a tour of the shop, including seeing the smaller cello in-process and getting to meet Gary who is meticulous in his work. Here are a few other pictures from our exploration:
I am lucky to also know a few great local luthiers in Nebraska, so I am excited to see what they have in their shops and on their benches that may work. So stay tuned, fellow cellos – I’m hoping to add a new member to the family soon 🙂