Rebekah’s Recital

Nope – #celloadventuresofcille is not having a recital (though rumor has it I will play in the Academy of Arts recital later this spring!)

My teacher, Rebekah Grace Miller, will perform her final undergraduate recital at Belhaven University of April 6th. For more information, you can click here. Rebekah is a gifted artist. When she plays her cello, it is an emotional encounter. She uses her God given talent to minister in so many ways and to touch the lives of those around her.

In addition to her teaching me for nearly 17 months, I have been privileged to hear her play professionally with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra as well as during various other events: Best of Belhaven and a number of Music Studio Classes at Belhaven, her Cello I recital in 2017, at First Baptist Jackson, and as part of the mission team for Epiphany Nights in St. Petersburg, Russia in January 2019. Honestly, when I don’t think her music can get any better, she plays something else that touches me. My current favorite (in a long list of favorites), is Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 19. While I love the whole thing, the third movement, the Andante, moves me to tears every.single.time. You don’t want to disturb the moment by breathing as the movement concludes. Seriously.

Cello lessons with Rebekah (and hanging out with other young adult friends who love classical music) have rekindled my love of classical music. Part of it is the music itself and the genius of the composers; part is the interpretation of artists who perform these works: their devotion to their craft; how they use their God given talents to touch the lives of others; the sacrifices they make to pursue their dreams. I am thrilled to be along for the ride in a small way and to be able to see just how God is going to use them. Who knew that deciding to take cello lessons at the young age of 62 from a 20 year old would have such an impact on my life.

I encourage you to come and experience Rebekah’s music on April 6th. Frankly, if you are not taking advantage of the musical offerings that Belhaven regularly produces, you are missing something special.

Rebekah’s sister, Zoë Miller, perhaps said it best: “Rebekah has known for years that the cello was her calling. On April 6, she will showcase years of hard work, tireless dedication, and, above all, her God given talent as she performs for her senior recital at Belhaven University. I am so proud of how much Rebekah has grown and I’m excited to see where God takes her next!!” To know your calling and to pursue it, that is what God wants from each of us.

I cannot wait to see what God is going to do in Rebekah’s life and with her gifts. As that plays out, I am thankful to be taking lessons, learning all I can from her, and being able to give back a little where I can. My encouragement to you today is to take a chance on doing something different (and hard) and where you can, make investments in the lives of those who come behind you. Trust me. You will be thankful you did.

Still Choosing Joy!


Things Recently Learned

GeWBHGWbTiOyvO8WAVjayANo, this blog is not turning into “Cille’s Cello Journey” but it could easily become that if I am not careful.  I can say, though, that since I started lessons in September 2017, I have learned a few things:

  1. You are never too old to learn something new.
  2. New things introduce you to new people thus open the door for new opportunities.
  3. It’s ok to realize you will never be Yo-Yo Ma but you might, with effort, turn out to be a decent ensemble member in time.
  4. Young adult musicians, while having extraordinary talent, are a lot of fun to be around. They are also polite, gracious, humble, giving, and many days, just plain funny. Laughter is a very good thing.
  5. Trying new things may be the ladder you need to climb out of your rut.
  6. Young adults need experienced adults at times to offer guidance. Young adults are pretty good at giving guidance, too.  It is all about listening. Praying together is not a bad thing either.
  7. Sometimes you are just going to squeak! I just try to tell myself when that happens that the mouse who lives inside my cello is having a rough day!
  8. Sometimes you work beyond your capabilities – seriously – what possessed me to order both the Bach Cello Suites AND the Popper Etudes this month? The real question, though, is whether or not doing this was a bad thing? I can pick out the notes in places!
  9. Sometimes when YOU try something new it encourages SOMEONE ELSE to try something new and helps them deal with stuff in their lives and encourages them, too.
  10. It’s a very good day when you realize for the first time in a while that you are passionate about something.

You do find out a lot about yourself.  You are reminded that your gifts are different from the gifts God gave to others and that is OK.  You are reminded it takes all of us regardless of our gifts working together to accomplish what God wants and expects from us. You are reminded that because you are not the best at doing one thing, chances are you are a superior talent in another.

I like Romans 12:3-5 for it reminds me that God always had a plan for my gifts which, frankly, will never be as a professional musician. But God can use this opportunity in my life and my gifts to open doors for others (all while I get to enjoy this season of learning and  being passionate about something new!)

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

My suggestion to you is to pursue your passion, whatever it is, and use the gifts God has given you to expand your horizons. Chances are you will open doors for others and doors will be opened for you.

Still Choosing Joy


Bowing Along

SHAR’s case of trial bows

So Thursday and Friday, I did this thing – tested cello bows. This is my second bow upgrade since I began lessons in September 2017 and I took a really big step!  Seriously, I gave myself a low-level carbon fiber bow for Christmas after playing with the lowest level student bow for several months (I still have it but it has been put away in a box!!) I really enjoyed the first upgrade and was pleasantly surprised that my playing sounded better and that the bow was easier to manage. I even had just enough confidence that I purchased the cello I had been renting. Scary.

Several months back I decided I loved playing cello. I am certainly not going to ever be the next Yo-Yo Ma (ha!) or Nancy Bateman or Rebekah Miller. No way!! They are my cello playing heroes! But like with some other things in my life, choir, for example, I can be a decent ensemble player if I just work at it.  I think that realization came when some of the basic mechanics (who knew that there were so many moving parts and things to think about?) of playing stopped being stressful and became, at times, music.  I was encouraged even more to stretch myself and to explore outside my comfort zone.  Heck. I realized I “liked” playing scales and thirds and trying weird technical exercises! I hated that when I was taking piano and tolerated it when playing the trombone. Maybe it is an “age thing!”

So, I started looking at a real bow upgrade (and, don’t tell Steve, but a cello upgrade, too – still looking at that; need to reach some of my next goals before going there.)  I actually only ordered two bows to try but the nice rep from SHAR called and let me know that for the same $25 trial fee I could try four of them.  I told him to send them on.

I have been serious about practice this summer – I play usually 40-50 minutes almost every day, seldom less and even occasionally more. Thursday, when the bows arrived,  I played everything I am working on plus some favorites using all four bows.  I was super surprised there was so much difference from one bow to the next. Rebekah had cautioned me that what matters is how the bow sounds on my cello and how it feels to me. I played them all multiple times and then lined them up in the box in the order I liked them.  The top two included one I selected for trial and one selected by SHAR.

Yesterday, I headed over to Belhaven to meet Rebekah Miller, my amazing teacher and friend. She patiently listened as I played the C major scale and parts of the Bach Minuet #1 with each of them. Honestly, sometimes I think I need to purchase noise cancellation earplugs for her when I play Bach!! I still liked best the one I liked on Thursday. I liked its sound and how it felt.  It is a little heavier than the Presto carbon fiber bow I have been using but I heard my cello sing in a different way from before.

The best part of the whole assessment was having Rebekah play my cello using all the trial bows. I could have listened all afternoon!  Scales and parts of an etude and parts of the Dvorak concerto she is working on.  Since I am a visual learner in large part, I loved watching how she embraces the instrument and attacks the notes making music. And I got to hear it more than 4 times because she repeated all of those with all the bows and then went back to the top two and then to the final one, a German Joseph Shuster bow, we agreed was best. Wow.

This was not really a “lesson” but, as always, I got one. And I got to play a new piece I am working on that is coming along nicely.

I am getting ready to drop the bows I am returning at FedEx.  The new bow has already been played this morning (early practice since we are headed out-of-town for a few days).  I already like it but did realize this morning that I was holding the thing with a death grip! Will work on that when I get back (that happened last switch, too).

I guess the moral of this tale is, don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid to follow a path God puts before you.  Prior to starting lessons last fall, I had forgotten how much I loved learning and how much I really loved classical music. I had gotten away from music as pure enjoyment and had just not made time to experience something really new. Frankly I think I was afraid I of failure. I reminded myself and some other friends, though, even yesterday that those who have never failed have never attempted anything. That is important for all of us to remember.

In Hebrews 10:35-36 NIV, we are reminded:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

I am certain the writer of Hebrew was NOT talking about a 60 something year-old learning to play cello! I am equally certain, though, the writer is reminding us we must constantly and with confidence seek Him and follow where He leads, though we may not know where He is leading us.

Seek Him today. If it takes “bowing along” to get you back to Him and seeking His face, then do it.

Still Choosing Joy!