So not long ago, I reported that the boy had decided upon the instrument he was going to learn to play, and that contrary to what he’d been discussing for the past year, it was the cello. I called the luthier and requested that they set up both a 1/4 and 1/8 size rental cello for him to try, because he was in that weird crossover space between the two sizes according to all the tables and lists we could find. My luthier said that they had both sizes in stock; they just needed to set them up. The boy bought his first music book and was very excited to start. That was three weeks ago. I set up his first lesson for the 22nd, thinking that two weeks would be more than adequate.
When I’d heard nothing from the luthier for those two weeks after my initial contact with them, I called my teacher on Friday the 21st to cancel the next day’s lesson and tentative confirm the following Saturday instead. Now, my local luthier is actually a satellite branch of a major luthier in town, and is only open three days a week. That means that two weeks translates to six working days. I understand that. I also know that they have a lot of open work orders, and it’s hard to fit everything in when you’re only open three days a week.
They phoned that Saturday morning, and I called them back after missing the call. The 1/4 was ready, they said, although they were having problems with the 1/8’s bridge and were waiting for a new part; it might be another two weeks for that size. No problem, I said! Could we come try the 1/4? If that fit, then they wouldn’t have to pursue the 1/8 setup. Sure, they said! Come by any time this afternoon!
The boy got very excited, and we planned to head over right after lunch. Well, as lunch was winding up, the luthier called again. Um, we’re so very sorry, they said; the rental 1/4 isn’t completely ready after all. We mixed up two different work orders.
Would it be ready by next Thursday, I asked? Maybe; they’d have to call me to confirm that the following week, they said.
The boy was crushed. So was I, in a different way. I was trying to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak; I didn’t want his enthusiasm to lose momentum. That night he asked if he could practice the cello he had, so I got the viola out and taught him the names of the strings, and we worked on the Twinkle rhythm, and he learned how to sing the note names of the first two bars, and put on a little concert for HRH. It was awesome. At orchestra on Wednesday I asked my teacher what else we could do, and she reminded me of all the early bow exercises like windshield wipers, the tree frog climbing up and down the stick, and so forth.
This morning I noticed that someone had pencilled the word ‘hope’ in lowercase letters across the bottom of the printout of the group cello class schedule that sits on my music stand. It just about broke my heart. So, it being Friday, three weeks after my initial request, and not having heard anything from the luthier, I called them early this afternoon to see what the status of everything was. They made sure to check by talking to the workshop guys to be absolutely certain of their answer, and lo and behold, the rental 1/4 is ready! So today, I will meet the boy at the bus stop after school, and I will be able to tell him that yes, we will be going to the cello store to try a cello, and if it fits we will definitely rent it and bring it home, and he can have his very first cello lesson tomorrow. He will be over the moon.
A couple of people have asked me what the fuss is about trying both the 1/8 and the 1/4, and why we aren’t just buying him a secondhand instrument. It’s like this: We want to buy him a secondhand instrument, absolutely, because renting one for a year would work out to the equivalent of buying a used one from the parent of another small cellist anyway. Problem is, if the 1/8 is what fits him right now, it certainly won’t fit him for very long, and we’d have to sell a secondhand 1/8 to upgrade to the 1/4 size in the near future anyway. If we’re renting, then I know we can upsize the 1/8 as necessary. Then, once he’s firmly in the 1/4 size and will be there for a couple of years, then we can buy him a used cello. If he fits the 1/4 right off the bat, then we’ll rent for the minimum three months and buy a used 1/4 at the end of it. Also, there are the is-he-ready-for-this and is-this-really-for-him issues. Three months will give me, his teacher, and him all a good idea of if this is going to work or not. If it’s not, we drop it after the three months, and try again later. If it works, then we can buy with confidence.
Cross your fingers for us, gentle readers. We really want that 1/4 at the luthier to be the right size. I think it will be, but there’s always that uncertainty.
I am going to need a new icon of him playing the cello. This one of him at twenty-two months old, while thematically appropriate, is woefully out of date.
LATER: Gentle readers, we have achieved cello:
The luthier and I think the 1/4 is a smidge large, but we’ve got it until the bridge for the new 1/8 comes in and gets shaped. If my teacher is fine with this, then the 1/4 it is.
SATURDAY: Yeeeeeah. We definitely need the 1/8; the 1/4 is just a bit too much to handle. Also, we need the proper size bow; the set came with a 1/2 size bow, for some reason. My teacher sent him home with her Twinkle Bow for the week to work with, a fully functional 10″-long miniature bow used to teach children how to hold a bow properly and use the proper wrist and elbow motions.
The boy, leaving his first lesson in the car: “Sigh. I will miss my cello teacher.”