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9-Years of Journey with the Cello
Written by Justin An | Published. 2021.03.24 14:36 | Count : 158

Music. Creativity in its purest form, music is an art form that can express sentiments and emotions. It has existed alongside humans since prehistory, although back then it was mainly expressed through singing or humming. As humanity developed, interest in music also increased, leading to the creation of a variety of instruments, including string, brass, percussion, and woodwinds. For the past nine years since December of 2011, I have played the cello. It is undoubtedly the longest activity I have ever done in my life, and playing cello has considerably influenced my life. 

My journey with the cello began in first grade, when one of my relatives gave me a cello. At the time, I actually thought the cello was a big violin. For several years until about fourth or fifth grade, playing cello was really a meaningful and fun experience; any beginner would find playing any new instrument interesting. However, after I moved to California in fourth grade, I started having thoughts of stopping to play the cello. For some reason, playing wasn't as exciting as before, and I just didn’t have the urge to practice and improve. Fortunately, the turning point came when I was chosen to play in a District Orchestra in Palos Verdes in 2015. I barely had experience playing in orchestras, but the harmony of the various instruments once again ignited my passion for the cello. 

[The Injyana Orchestra Rwanda, 2017. Photo credits: Heejung Lee] 

However, moving to Africa in seventh grade once again made me lose my focus. There weren't strong music programs in my school, nor skilled musicians to be rivals with. On top of that, one day my cello broke, and I thought my cello journey was completely over. Nonetheless, there was one hope for me: studying abroad in the US. I held on with renting a terribly low-quality cello that I could barely stand hearing, and I was delighted when I was able to go to the US and study in a boarding school and be part of its orchestra with hard-working and motivated musicians. 

Studying in the States has made me enjoy playing the cello extremely, incomparable to the past. I was the second chair for the cello section last year, and currently the first in the school’s String Orchestra since this fall. Frankly, I felt quite proud of myself. Nowadays, the pandemic has forced me to stay inside, but this also meant I would have more time with the cello than in school, where I had a strenuous schedule. 

[The Mercersburg Academy Strings Ensemble, 2019. Photo credits: Author]

It was just recently, barely just over a month ago, that I wanted to excel at playing the cello to the point I can be competent enough in competitions instead of just playing and learning new pieces. Due to this new goal of mine, my practice sessions became more effective and efficient. In the past, I kept my focus on playing without errors. However, now I find myself naturally playing without mistakes as I make my preliminary step in focusing on the quality of the sound and expression. Now that I am back at school, I have been given an opportunity to play a cello solo with the orchestra in an upcoming strings concert in April. 

Ever since I started playing the cello, it has never been “fun.” However, the pandemic has caused me to reevaluate playing the cello. I see definite improvements every day, and just hearing it is so enjoyable. Plus, I never understood in the years back when my teacher or parents told me that I should play the cello to relieve stress. Now I understand; it is a different way of relieving stress and soothing my mind unlike in the past when I watched videos or played games. When the pandemic is over, I genuinely hope I can compete in competitions and see how I hold up against other skilled musicians, but also simply enjoy the fact that I am playing the cello and creating beautiful music. The cello is going to be my dearest hobby for the rest of my life.


Justin An
Mercersburg Academy

Justin An  student_reporter@dherald.com

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