I started falling in love with Japanese twenty years ago in college. Someone in my house at Smith was taking it, and I remember being slightly awed by the hiragana, katakana and kanji flashcards that she created. I was taking German at the time (which I also love) but in my opinion, Japanese is the most beautiful written language.
Instead of being brave and adding Japanese to my course schedule, I waited until my senior year and signed up for a Japanese poetry course. Sensei would bring us Japanese sweets every week, and I imagined myself going to Japan some day, sitting under a tree in a park somewhere, and reading those same poems in Japanese instead of English.
Many years after college, I finally took a few Japanese classes, and I can read, write and speak some basic Japanese, but Japanese, like the cello, isn't really something that you can master on a whim. The best way to learn a language, or an instrument, is to surround yourself with it.
Here are some ways that you can immerse yourself in the world of the cello:
1. Rent or buy a cello. There is no substitute for the real thing. And even if there is, get the real thing.
2. Name your cello. It will help build a connection between the two of you, and she will be more forgiving when you do things like squeeze her bow too tightly or accidentally bang her against a pipe in a parking garage. In case you are wondering, my cello's name is Hana, which means flower in Japanese.
3. Attend classes or private lessons with a reputable teacher.
4. Listen to cello music in your car, at home, and at the gym.
5. Pay close attention to the cello parts in car commercials, movies, and law firm ads. You probably never noticed them until you started playing the cello.
6. Invest in a stress ball for your hands. Squeeze and release. Repeat.
7. Do finger exercises when you are stopped at a light or waiting in line at the grocery store.
8. Walk around thinking dead arm, dead arm, trying to get your arm and hands to relax in preparation for playing.
9. Watch famous cellists on You Tube. Pay attention to how they hold their bodies, how they move, how they interact with the cello, and how relaxed their hands are.
10. Head to Symphony Hall, or any other concert venue, and experience a live cello performance.
11. If you've never done yoga or any other physical activity, now is the time to start. People who are physically fit can avoid things like repetitive stress injuries or back problems which can develop if you are not careful.
12. Start a cello blog, or photo gallery, or paint pictures of your cello. A cello is already a work of art. Make it your own.
13. Downloaded part of the Bach Cello Suites or any other famous cello music as the ring tone on your phone. When telemarketers call you, your irritation will be tempered by the beautiful sound of the cello.
14. Change your Facebook profile photo to something cello-related. That way, every time you access Facebook, you will remember that you should not be on Facebook. You should be practicing the cello.
15. Start a cello club for staff and students at work. You might be the only person in the club, but eventually your enthusiasm will rub off on others, and soon enough, you'll have an ensemble.
16. Order sheet music for songs that keep you motivated to practice them, like Christmas carols, or the theme song from the Addams Family.
17. Try to practice every day, even if it's only for a few minutes. (Insert your cello's name here) is counting on you to show the world what she can really do.
18. Record yourself practicing so that afterwards, you can analyze your playing and do better next time.
So far, this immersion method is working for me, and maybe it will for you too. Every day, I fall more in love with my cello, and little by little, my tone and confidence are improving. Just yesterday, at our local Town Day, I was invited to join the community orchestra. I declined; I'm not anywhere near ready for anything remotely akin to an orchestra, but one of these days I'll get there, and one of these days, I'll get to Japan too.