Cello Playing for Music Lovers attempts to bring the complex and daunting task of learning to play the cello down to earth and approachable for adult beginners. Unlike the typical beginning cello book, CPML contain easy-to-read explanatory text matched with simple, short, playable examples that illustrate the point. . . . The target audience for the book is a typical adult non-musician who might feel intimidated by technical-looking cello methods and etude books, but who is already familiar with many of the melodies and fragments of classics that make up the book. The learner can relate the point in the text to the already-familiar example, and then perform the example. I don t know of another book for cellists with this mix of adult-beginner orientation, conversational style, widely-known examples from popular culture, a demonstration CD, and introductory discussions of concepts such as relaxation, dynamics, factors in choice of bowings and fingerings, modulations, and modes. The book addresses the primary issues for cello beginners: parts of the cello, posture, bow hold, hand position, rudiments of scales, notation, positions, etc, assuming no prior knowledge on the part of the student. It contains several fingering charts from 1st position to 4th position, including ½ position. The songs include Some Enchanted Evening, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, My Funny Valentine, Hava Nagila and Shenandoah. The classical excerpts are short extracts of a major theme, not necessarily in the same key as commonly performed. Examples include themes from Pomp and Circumstance, J.S. Bach s Arioso, and Tchaikovskys Song Without Words. The audio CD contains 97 tracks demonstrating the simple exercises, scales, and melodies notated in the book. All the songs and classical excerpts are melodies that adapt easily to cello. Just the things to have ready when Uncle Glenn and Aunt Helen visit and ask, So, play us something! . . . . The melodies as presented often (but not always) use open strings, lower positions, and (early in the book) no vibrato, as befitting the level of the student. Erik Friedlander plays them well, fingered as notated, and at tempos suitable for the student. However, on the last track of the CD, labeled Encore, Friedlander reprises nine of the melodies, letting loose with a large dynamic range and full vibrato on more professional-style fingerings. Yep, those simple tunes sound so absolutely gorgeous on cello. Dr. Jiji does not pretend to be an expert, only a veteran, so she also relates personal stories of setbacks to which the reader might relate. One thing that I ve never seen in a cello book: At several places, the author suggests names of tunes at an appropriate level that the student should try to figure out on his/her own. She provides the key and the starting note. I have to think an early beginner that has figured out tunes by ear on the cello will have increased confidence in his or her ability to hear and learn (Didn t Pablo Casals start out that way on his gourd cello?). Dr. Diliana Momtchilova, who reviewed the book, received her doctorate from the Juilliard School, and serves on the faculty at Mannes Music College so presumably she knows her stuff. I certainly did not find anything in the content controversial or likely to lead a beginning student astray. . . The way I see it, the more a student knows outside of lessons, the more the teacher can cover other things during the lesson. For less than the price of one lesson, CPML covers the basic cello-facts through 4th position, and can be a source of inspiration for individual enjoyment and exploration. But perhaps the best use of the book would by teachers. My teacher, who has quite a few adult students, has looked through it, was favorably impressed, and expects to borrow it at my next lesson. I wonder if I'll get it back. --Chiddler, Cellists by Night, Internet Cello Society Forum
Vera Jiji gives detailed explanations of how to approach the musical examples in the book, virtually compiling the ministrations of a teacher. She thus enables the beginning cellist to get started on the instrument without a teacher, if necessary. Cello Playing for Music Lovers is not just a great manual for students but also for teachers of adult beginners who seek a more wide-ranging source. --Diliana Momtchilova, DMA, Juilliard School
It's terrific and long overdue advice for this target group and I think what you've done is marvelous with many truly inspiring sections. Your general emphasis on physical relaxation and enjoyment of the process seems right on the mark for me. My experience with amateurs has always been that they want so much to show you that they're a good intelligent student that they are as tight as a drum, fearful of making a mistake or misinterpreting. . . It would be good to encourage people at any age to investigate simply to improve their quality of life! --Rolf Gjelsten, cellist, the New Zealand String Quartet
About the Author
Many years ago, during my four years at the incomparable High School of Music and Art in New York City, I treasured my opportunity to study the cello. I was fortunate enough to receive a cello scholarship from Janos Scholz, a co-founder of the Cello Society. However, once I entered college, other demands on my time forced me to give up the scholarship and my music. During the next forty-two years, I embarked on a career as a teacher of literature, raised my four children and seldom thought about my cello. Still, I refused to relinquish the silent instrument. I kept it safe, untouched, encased and hidden in the back of my closet. When I retired from teaching in the 1990s, I took up the cello again, although with great trepidation. Like many people who took music lessons during childhood, I feared that my musical knowledge had been completely lost. I can tell you from personal experience that your musical training is tucked away in the back of your brain, as my cello was hidden in the back of my closet. Many people who never studied music in childhood won t even try in adulthood; they feel so overwhelmed by the prospect. They have been told that unless you studied music as a child, it is impossible to learn later on. But that is simply not true. Playing music is one of life s most glorious experiences. Nobody should be deprived of it, especially through an unwarranted fear of music s difficulties. It s shocking to read message boards on the internet with people asking, I am over forty: am I too old to learn to play the cello? I wrote this book because I believe that if I could return happily to music after so many years, so can almost anybody. I play with other amateurs who have done it. It requires patience and determination, but older adults have patience and determination. It requires only that the student be in reasonable physical health, discern higher and lower pitches, be able to follow instructions closely, and have the patience and persistence to study every day. Cello Playing for Music Lovers has been carefully scrutinized for accuracy and comprehensiveness by my cello teacher, Diliana Momtchilova, who holds a DMA, a Doctorate degree from The Juilliard School. If the book's technical expertise is the teacher's province, the approach and contents are mine. During my many years of teaching at Brooklyn College, I learned how to organize material clearly, logically, and in an appealing way. I particularly enjoyed making complex subjects simpler for my students. Accordingly, once I had advanced beyond the basics of music making, I wanted to pass on to others the gift I had received from Janos Scholz and my years of experience by setting the basics down in this book. Usually in this field, instruction is conveyed one to one, teacher to pupil, through spoken communication. However, it is easy to misinterpret or forget important instructions. Here, written out, are the fundamentals from a learner s perspective. You can study, review and absorb the information at your own pace. Studying the cello will keep you mentally alert and happy while it keeps your body active and moving. The rewards of music making, even for beginners, are great enough to keep me and many other seniors studying for years with astonishing tenacity. There's a saying that dancers do not age while they are dancing. I think musicians don't age while they are playing, either. Of course, young adults can also learn from Cello Playing for Music Lovers. My point is merely that learning to play the cello is neither forbidden nor impossible after you reach a certain age, defined as whatever your age is now when you are tempted to try it. Come join the party.