When I was in elementary school, there was an assembly where the little orchestra our school had played, and it really seemed cool. I started piano lessons that year, but had to stop as my teacher went to college. My brother also had piano lessons from a different teacher and his skill was valued at his middle school. The bass player in their orchestra moved and were desperate for a new one (this situation kind of happened to me in high school). Since he could already read music, he was recruited by his good friend. So, he brought the bass home and I was overly excited. I wanted to play the bass as well. But I was rather too small to start the bass, so instead I pleaded with my mom to let me play the cello, the next biggest stringed instrument, in my elementary school orchestra. She knew exactly what would happen, but I was persistent, so I won the battle. We rented a tiny half-sized cello at the local violin shop, Robertson and Sons (completely and utterly recommend), and soon I started playing the cello in fourth grade, age 9. I was the only cellist and the rest were violinists. We met in a class room before school started a few days a week. The instructor was a violinist himself who also played in the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.
Soon, just as my mother predicted, I wanted to quit so bad. I wasn't disciplined to practice and I hated going to school early. But my mom didn't let me quit, so soon the year was over and I could make out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on my tiny cello. The orchestra was only for "beginners", so it would be useless to sign up for it the next year. My mom thought it was the beginning of something, so she looked into the Albuquerque Junior String Orchestra, which was part of the AYS program (again, recommend). So, I would head down to Robertsons and Sons (R & S) violin shop in fifth grade and play in a little orchestra. However, we didn't know a private teacher was required until the middle of the year (I don't know how they let me in in the first place). My mom looked up cello teachers in the area. She wanted someone who lived close, so she chose Pamela DeLisse (once again, I recommend). But Pamela didn't teach in her home, she had a studio at R & S, so we travelled there anyway to have lessons. Pamela very soon found out I was taught by a violinist and had to break a lot of habits of mine. I don't remember a lot about starting cello lessons, but I do know that Pamela has been extremely patient in many ways to me. I stuck with her until college, and I would have continued with her if I could have at the time.
I must have not enjoyed AJSO all that much because I didn't want to play with any of the middle school groups when I entered 6th grade. I decided the school orchestra was fine for me. I continued with Pamela, of course, but playing in the same orchestra my brother started in seemed to be enough. And it was! I loved playing in 6th grade. I think the problem with the years previous was that I didn't make any friends, but I made some pretty awesome friends then. I was the only 6th grader in the advanced orchestra, so it was awesome: I was good enough to hang out with the older kids (so important to little 11 year old me). They teased me about my tiny cello, but I didn't care. It gave me enough confidence to want to try out for the AYS program again. Pamela thought I had the talent for the highest middle school group, but I didn't put into a lot at the auditions, so my made it into Albuquerque Junior Orchestra. I was a little disappointed, but not that much. It just taught me I needed to practice more and work harder.
AJO started out at Hummingbird Camp in the Jemez mountains. I've been once before, but never overnight, so I was very nervous. I didn't know anybody. Soon, though I met Jessica, who also played the cello, was starting out at my middle school, and her dad happened to be one of the "sons" at R & S. The Orchestra was conducted by Mr. Katz, who happened to conduct AYS, the highest orchestra in the program for high school. So during my 7th grade year I (think) I carpooled with Jessica to practices every Saturday morning. In the program you are required to play in your school orchestra, but I had such a blast the previous year I don't think I would have quit. That year there were two 6th grade cellists, Jessica and this little kid named Dylan. He started cello lessons shortly before school started, so he was in between beginning and advanced. Our conductor decided to place him in advanced. I moved up to a 3/4 size cello that year, so I could tease him about his 1/2 size. It was a good year to play the cello. Soon tryouts for the next year were coming, but I definitely put more effort in and landed a spot in the Albuquerque Junior Symphony.
By 8th grade my skills have progressed so much since 4th, thank goodness. I attribute that to private lessons (who knew) and the practice logs I was forced to do in school. At Hummingbird I made some new friends, Johnny and Jonathan. Johnny happened to take lessons from Pamela as well, and I remembered him from AJSO, although I was much shyer then. I loved the conductors of the orchestra, Mr. Herrington and Mr. Teare. Mr. H taught band, so he would choose fun songs, like movie scores. Mr. T was more classical, but chose equally fun pieces like Berlioz and Bizet. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the AYS program, so they hired a famous composer to compose a piece for each orchestra in the program. Ours was about going to the dentist, so the piccolo (a high-pitched flute) represented the drill, and we played "the Barney song" as if we were on drugs during a procedure. It was pretty awesome. The orchestra above us had a cool one about cell-phones and some actually took some of their cell-phones out mid piece and walked around. AYS was going to Brazil that year so theirs was about a Brazilian monster of some sorts. In my school orchestra my conductor felt I could be more challenged and re-written some of the viola parts for cello so I could help the violists out. Pretty cool, huh?
Well, like I said, this is pretty detailed and I'm only half way through. Maybe if I can find some pictures of me and my tiny cello, I can post them.