People like us
While studying at CCM, I had the opportunity to learn the viol da gamba, an instrument which few people outside of classical string players know about, and even fewer play. Viol da gamba was developed in the late 15th century and popular until the 18th century before modernization. It’s rare to hear them performed today, Jordi Savall is probably the go to viol player (amazing musician) and continues to tour. They have such a special sound and look to them and I was lucky that CCM had a set of instruments that they would allow students to borrow and practice on. I thought being able to have access to this instrument was so amazing but realized if people didn’t have access to classical instruments there would be no way they could come into contact with one from the Renaissance/Baroque era.
So, taking a break from my regular practice routine (shh don't tell..) I packed up my cello and the gamba and drove around to some of the Cincinnati inner city high schools and asked if I could play for and let the students see and touch the gamba and cello. When I arrived and introduced myself one student announced loudly after sucking her teeth in dismissal “this ain’t for people like us”, and I argued this was absolutely for “people like us” and I asked her why she felt like that. She said because she had never seen anyone who looked like her playing the instrument. So I had her be the first one to come down and try them out and took a picture of her on her phone and told her, now you see someone who looks just like you playing. Everything is for you, you may decide you don’t want it, but don’t ever think you are excluded. Those visits were not about trying to get kids interested in being a classical musician, but it was all about giving them access, exposure, and experience in the hopes it transfers into other parts of their lives. I related to them in a way, coming from a family who aren’t interested in the arts, none were musicians, I’d never heard or recognized a cello until I was around 14 years old. When I finally had an opportunity to be exposed to one I remember thinking I’d never seen anyone from my background be a classical musician or even play an instrument so it just wasn’t a possibility, until I made it one.