Friday, August 18, 2006

Part of Matilda's new 6th-grade curriculum includes learning to play an instrument in the band or orchestra. Matilda fell in love with the cello.

The cello is a huge-ass piece of instrumentation. This thing is as tall as my daughter and probably weighs more.

But she's very excited about it, and as Gary and I are both hardcore band nerds* we are excited right along with her.

As you'll see by the asterisk down below, we're all about the woodwinds and brass, but we're in full support of the cello. I told Matilda she was the first member of her family to play a stringed instrument, which is kind of like being the first person to go to college. Full speed ahead, we're with you all the way, but we don't have the first clue about anything you're doing!

After school yesterday, I took Matilda up to the local music store and asked about renting a cello. She can play the school cellos in class, but she needs one at home to practice with. They fitted her for one, tuned it, and handed me some paperwork to sign. It costs $200 to rent a cello for the school year. That's a lot of cannoli, but okay. Then they asked me if we wanted the $25 service policy which protects against blah, blah, and blah.

I have a policy of saying no to service policies.

No thanks, I said. We're just going to use this one at home. It'll be fine.

Those of you English majors paying close attention here will pick up on that subtle instance of foreshadowing.

On the way home, Matilda decided the cello was a girl cello and named her Chellie.

She couldn't wait to start experimenting, and as soon as we pulled into the garage, Matilda leapt out and lugged Chellie off to the den. She popped in the instructional DVD that came with her essentials book.

Gertrude was extremely interested in all this. She parked herself on the sofa to watch as Matilda perched on the edge of a dining room chair, balancing the cello between her knees and practicing her posture as the DVD instructed.

I checked to be sure she was all set up, then I went out into the kitchen to chat with Gary. I still had the yellow receipt copy in my hand, and I plunked it down on the counter to show him.

I said, "Wow. Two hundred and--" I glanced down at the total. "WHAT?"

"What?" said Gary.

"I told them we DIDN'T want the service policy, and here it is checked 'service policy' and they charged me the extra $25!"

"Well, what’s the service policy?"

"Oh, I don’t know. Something that protects against things like—"


I am not even kidding. At that exact moment we heard the horrible sound of large, soft-wooded instrument meeting hardwood flooring.

We both sprinted.

Matilda was standing beside her chair, righting the instrument. Gertrude was kneeling on the couch looking worried. "It fell!" Matilda wailed. "Gert touched it!"

"She just touched it, and it fell?" I asked, not buying it.

"I was just..."

The parental band nerds both knew what had happened. "Did you lean it against your chair?" I asked.

Rule number one of playing an instrument: NEVER LEAN IT. IT WILL FALL. Leaners never learn and learners never lean. We had neglected to mention this at the onset, and now the cello's strings were flapping against its neck, limp and flaccid. And I, player of woodwind and brass, had no idea what to do about it.

Split a reed and I'll pat you on the shoulder and hand you a new one. Break a string and I'll completely flip out.

"Oh my god, we broke it! In the first fifteen minutes of having it in our house, we broke it! How can we take this back to them and admit that we broke it within the first fifteen minutes? Can we get a new string? Will we know how to attach it? And how do we tune it? We don't know anything about tuning a cello! Where's the tuner? Crap, crap, crap!"

Gary, player of strummable strings, was entirely rational. He reassured me that there was nothing wrong with the cello itself (and P.S. we have the service policy if there is), he would pick up a new set of strings, Matilda would learn how to tune it in class (because P.P.S., the reason you take a class is to learn things like that), and everything would be fine.

And it will. And it is. And we're going to have to start Gertrude on piano lessons ASAP or something because she's way too fascinated by expensive stringed instruments, even when she's not supposedly sending them crashing to the floor as her sister would have you believe.

*Gary has played the clarinet, guitar, and ukulele. I've played the piano, sax, trumpet, and various percussives.


Aunt Murry said...

Wow. It's like when I first got contacts. Had them an hour...yes 60 minutes and I washed one down the drain. My Mom was pissed. Beyond pissed. Thanks for the memory

Aunt Murry said...

It was a good one...felt like I needed to clarify. Obviously I survived. I don;t think I have ever seen my mom that mad in my life! LOL. Anyway, glad the cello is okay.

Sachi said...

Ah, music. String players are good with numbers. Keep a close eye on her as she takes pre-algebra. I'll bet she kicks butt!

No sweat about the tuning. But you might go back to the music store and check out the price on tuners. It will help her at first. I think you can get some for like $30 and Gary can use them on his guitar and Uke. (Little box that picks up the sound you pluck and tells you if it's a good note or not.)

Oh... And cello usually leads to viola, violin, etc. Traditional string players with a little creativity are SERIOUSLY in demand out there in the music scene right now. But not the scary side of the music scene with all the drugs and idiots. The side where most people are able to read music well and play high-priced dinner clubs or that get lots of touring because they're unique.

Gary said...

As fate would have it, lazy Gary has an electronic tuner. The uke is harder to tune than a guitar because the strings are so tight and short. Not a lot of give. All I need to know is what octaves we're dealing with and we'll be off.

Picked up a new set of strings, figuring more will break (Lord knows what they put on the rental, or how old they are or how well they were put on by the last pre-teen who used it). Holy cow those suckers are expensive. I'll have Matilda put it on with me and we should be good to go.

But worth it. The cello is one of my favorite instruments. And if she learns to play the Balanescu Quartet's version of Kraftwerk's "Model", that would totally kick ass.

Devorah said...

My heart was in my mouth as I read this. I am glad that it was just broken strings. It reminded me of the time we opened Mike's violin case to find the the instrument had caved in on itself. (It was successfully repaired.) As you know from your own experience, one instrument seems to lead to another -- so be prepared and ... ENJOY!

Anonymous said...

you neglected to mention that your father played first cello in the Laboure' marching band. Forming the block "L" while belting out"Proud Mary" always remained a problem-posted by someone other than your real father probably

Anonymous said...

I just bought a rollerball pen online. After reading your blog, I paid extra for the insurance.Did I do the right thing?

Anonymous said...

do weedwackers count as a stringed instrument?

curious lawn care expert probably not related to you

Carole said...

Oh my side is in painful stitches from the laughter over this post! And--that someone other than your father poster is a real hoot!

Anonymous said...

Not sure who this Carole is, but I can tell from her posts that she is an exceptional judge of character and is probably drop-dead gorgeous and wise far beyond her years.Also I love the way she is wearing her hair now, and in closing would casually mention that I am due to inherit the diamond mine any day now.And I love dogs and my personal fulfillment comes from lavishing expensive presents on women. Unless you dont like dogs.

Redhead Editor said...

My daughter played cello. Thought the service agreement paid for a sent of replacement strings. Check on that before you pay for a set. And it always made my heart soar to hear her which was good because it was damn expensive to rent year after year.