Yesterday we were on a little nature walk in a hill park near our home when we ran into some friends we hadn't seen in over a year. My old cello teacher and his family were strolling in the fading afternoon light as well. I don't know why I've never mentioned before that for a while I took cello lessons. I'm a lover of melancholy music and after seven disastrous years playing violin as a kid I had always wanted to be able to play what, to me, is the most beautiful sounding instrument in all the world. I got a cello about ten years ago and had classical lessons for about a year before I moved here to Oregon where I just didn't pick it up again. I realized that I didn't really want to learn theory and play the kind of music that most cello instructors wanted me to learn.
Then one day we were shopping at the downtown Farmer's Market when I heard it. This mournful but poignant and haunting cello... just behind the organic tomatoes. I was transfixed and sat on the grass listening for almost half an hour. That was the music I wanted to play.
To make a long story short, I enlisted the player of that incredible sound to instruct me. He's a composer of original works in a kind of Gypsy/Middle Eastern/Indian raga style and took me on as this enthusiastic but not too motivated and completely unskilled student. He never put a book or sheet music of any kind in front of me but the process of learning was really incredible. The instruction I remember most was, "Play so that it's beautiful to you." I practiced a whole week just moving the bow across open strings and listening. Just listening. I learned intervals and embellishments and practiced at putting them together but the whole process was really remarkable. I've played various instruments and sung in choirs and on stage my whole life but something was different with this. Maybe part of it was my love of the instrument, but part of it was also the style of teaching. Unlike all of my musical experience of the past where theory and repetitive scales and a kind of cerebral understanding of the music was mildly pounded into me, Adam taught in a way that I felt the music came out of me. Out of my love for the cello and the sound and the feeling of the music itself.
I'm sad to say that despite the incredible experience, I'm negligent when it comes to practice and, after one long holiday break, I just never called for a lesson again. It turns out that Adam stopped teaching too.
Because I ran into him though, and because I like to promote things Portland, I wanted to share my favorite local artist with you. Adam Hurst. Check him out.