I began playing the cello in order to join in the amateur chamber music sessions that were almost weekly occurrences in my home. I actually wanted to play the viola, because of a man named Mr. Wagner. I liked both his big smiling face and the sad sound of his instrument. But there was a small cello lying around the house, so cello it was.
When I started playing around age 12, I began doing vibrato right away. I think it sounded pretty good, but I had a very hard time making the bow go straight or paying attention to my teacher, or, most of all, practicing! I was so bad at it that my teacher thought I should give up! I did, but started again at 15 with a different teacher, because I had a crush on a girl who was in the school orchestra and I wanted to get in. The next year, a very kind and gifted cellist named Gloria Strassner showed me how beautiful a cello could sound. She also lent me a cello, because I didn’t have one, and gave me free lessons for two years.
I went to college as an English major at the University of California at Berkeley. By chance, the great cellist Pablo Casals gave a series of master classes that year which I was able to attend as a spectator. The experience was so strong for me that I dropped out of school to devote myself to the cello. I worked as a bus-boy in a Pizza Restaurant 8 hours a day to pay for lessons. After two years, I won a scholarship to Juilliard.
It takes a lot of hard work to learn to play the cello really well, but I think it’s worth it. Even though I didn’t get an early start, I love playing so much now that I don’t like to put the cello down.