How to play the violoncello in public with a facial disfiguration

I was brought up to play and sing classical music. My focus instruments in my early years were ‘cello, piano and my boy soprano best. Part and parcel of that was public performance. I’d regularly play in venues from primary school playgrounds to our city’s main auditorium, the Auckland Town Hall.

Shortly previous to one of these occasions, around age nine, I was in an accident. To be specific, I misjudged while trying to get across a busy road so I could keep up and stay hanging out with the older, cooler kids. I remember seeing the car coming towards me, thinking “I’m not going to make it”, and then… nothing, for a while. I then remember waking up beside the road, not really feeling sore but very shaken. An ambulance was called, and I was taken to hospital.

I was a light child so my body wasn’t greatly injured. I did have some surface injury to my head. I required seven stitches to my forehead, and my entire left cheek had been grazed, leaving an enormous scab while the healing took place.

This was still my condition a couple of weeks later when my music school orchestra was to play at our local high "Orchestra layout" by Darkdoc - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Orchestra_layout.svg#/media/File:Orchestra_layout.svgschool. Cellos sit along the right hand side of the stage, facing the conductor. It was thus that my scar and the large scab that was my left cheek were facing the audience.

As I sat down I noticed a reaction. A ripple of shock went through the audience. At that point black thread stitches were standard. I imagine evidence of my injury was stark. I recall being amused and gratified by the reaction, for a second at least.

That wasn’t my first public performance but it’s the first one I remember with clarity. Participating in it, I learnt a key lesson in performance. A lesson I’ve used in public speaking engagements, meeting facilitation, achieving workplace goals, and, yes, playing music in front of people. The lesson: Whatever you’re doing, engage in it. Acknowledge the context. Acknowledge the difficulties, the strangeness, the reactions of others – but do what you are there to do.

As to the answer of how to play the violoncello in public with a facial disfiguration:

Put your left hand on the fret board. Using your right, place the bow on the string. Smoothly draw the bow along the string, producing sound.

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About seanmurgatroyd
Library (Shared blog): http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Personal including infoculture, book reviews: http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Music: http://seanfishmusic.wordpress.com/ Last.fm band page: http://www.last.fm/music/Seanfish @seanfish

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