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The Late Starters Orchestra PDF Free Download

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To be a musician is a curse. To
not
be one is even worse.

—Jazz trumpeter
JACK DANEY

S
tanding in a crowded elevator in midtown Manhattan with a cello strapped to your back is no way to win a popularity contest. For one thing, you are taking up nearly twice your normal footprint; for another, you can barely make a move without sideswiping someone. But there I was jostling people with my cello in the elevator of a Manhattan loft building on my way to my very first rehearsal with the New York Late-Starters String Orchestra.

Orchestra

In truth, the cello on my back was the least of my worries. I was en route to what I feared would be a mortifying encounter. My orchestra experience was limited to playing in a middle-school ensemble with my son plus a handful of sessions with adult amateurs where I often felt lost and overwhelmed. Humiliation was assured. I was destined to play out of tune, out of time, out of rhythm—crimes akin to having your cell phone go off in a crowded theater. Why was I even going? I was silently praying that the elevator would get stuck on its slow climb to the thirteenth floor.

The elevator eventually belched me out into a narrow hallway that led to a small actors' studio where members of the orchestra were unpacking their instruments. The room was strewn with props from a show, including hats, shoes, and an old bed frame with exposed springs. There was a maze of pipes overhead and wire mesh–reinforced windows that were nailed shut. This old loft, which once housed a ladies coat factory, was surely on its way to becoming something else—luxury condominiums or maybe a swanky gym—but for this brief moment it was rehearsal space for the Late Starters Orchestra.

I had been advised to arrive ten minutes early because the Late Starters Orchestra was paying for the studio by the hour. And it wasn't about to start late. Casting a brief glance around, it became clear to me that the
late
in the orchestra's name referred to the age of the participants, not to the starting hour.

The players, a smattering in their thirties but most of them approaching sixty like me and still others well beyond it, were readying their instruments and setting up their music stands when the conductor—a tall, thin, blond, serious, and yet stunning-looking woman, decidedly younger than her late-starter participants—silenced us all with an A note from her violin. It's called “tuning,” and we all did our best to get the A string on our instruments to match hers.

OrchestraThe Late Starters Orchestra PDF Free Download

The A is the highest of the
four
strings on the cello. There are a thousand steps to making music in an ensemble but it all begins with making sure the instruments are in tune, which means, in effect, that everyone is on the same page.

Ari, mein liebe,
I heard my late cello teacher, Mr. J, say gently.
I speak German. You speak Hebrew. But if you speak Hebrew and I speak German we cannot understand each other. We must find a common language and that common language for us is the key of E, English. You understand, right? In music, like in language, we must find common ground. When an orchestra tunes, that common ground is A.

What's nice about the note A is that all the classical string instruments—the violin, the viola, the cello and the double bass—have an A as an open string. An
open string
means the note is played with just one hand, the right hand—the hand that holds the bow. No left hand pressure is necessary. There's a purity to this that enables a clear conversation to get going between all the instruments.

Here was something familiar to me. A, the highest string on the cello, is my favorite letter, and not just because my name starts with A. I relate to A. For me it signals beginnings and taking chances—something I've tried to do both in my career as a journalist and in my religious life.

As the conductor played her A, I strained to listen to my cello's A. I could hear that it was off—my ear was that good—but I wasn't sure if I was too high or too low. I suddenly remembered a trick that Mr. J taught me.
Th
e note is inside you,
he said
. Just sing it. Let it come out. Sing!
Even though everyone else was bowing, I was singing. I sang the A—“Aaaa,” I sang above the din—until I could hear it and then try to match it on my cello. My A string, I now knew, was too low. I reached up to the top of the cello, turned the peg up a notch and suddenly—and remarkably—my A sounded exactly like all the others. It joined the great flow of A strings in the room, and through all time, and through all orchestras. It seemed like the most perfect sound I had ever heard. I experienced an inexpressible joy. I almost burst out laughing with the sheer delight of playing a single note. I remembered why I had come.

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You are not playing a note. You are playing a song,
Mr. J would say when I'd complain about having to play a note over and over and over again until it sounded the way he thought it should.
Every note is a song. Sing! Play it!

Our A's in tune, the conductor raised her baton to begin. Suddenly, the door opened and a gray-haired woman in her seventies came rushing into the room with her cello. The conductor paused to allow the new cellist a chance to find a seat. For some reason, I felt an immediate connection with this woman. Maybe it was because she reminded me of my Grandma Nettie, who will forever be associated in my mind with brownies so delicious we called them “yum yum cake.” I waved at the woman to indicate that there was a place in the cello section next to me but then realized that there was no chair for her, just the old bed frame left over from the actors who normally used the room. I put down my cello and went into the hall in search of a folding chair for this grandma look-alike.

When I returned I positioned the chair between myself and the bed frame. The woman took her seat, nodded her thanks, and then whispered, “Hi. I'm Eve. Now if they only got rid of the fucking bed, we'd have room to play.”

Profanity was the last thing I expected to hear in this classical music environment. But that was before I met Eve and some of her brash and racy friends in their seventies. Although Eve looked like my grandmother, she didn't sound like her. But I was happy to have Eve next to me. She was a more experienced player and helped me find my way when I got lost in the score. My chief weakness as a player is rhythm, the vital necessity to keep a steady beat. But Eve was a metronome. Some musicians keep the beat in their heads; Eve was of the foot-tapping variety. With her next to me, I just followed her tapping foot. And, once again, she turned back into this maternal figure, keeping a steady pace. I was reminded of listening to my mother's heartbeat when I put my head on her breast as a young child. And it reminded me of another one of Mr. J's teachings:
Rhythm emerges from your body.

The Late Starters Orchestra Pdf Free Download By Jeff Kinney

Rhythm is the organizing principal of the natural world—and of our lives, too. Listen to your heartbeat. Listen to your breathing. Be aware of your footsteps.
Th
e beat is not something you have to learn. It is something you have to let come forth from your very being.

Including Eve and myself, there were eight cellists in our group that day as well as an equal complement of violinists plus two violists and one double bassist. To a classical music outsider, we were all playing the same string instrument made of wood, just ones in different sizes. In size, the violin is the smallest (at twenty-three inches, just slightly longer than the average newborn) and then up the scale to the viola (twenty-seven inches, a baby at nine months) to the cello (forty-eight inches, a preteen) to the double bass (sixty to seventy inches, a full-size adult). We were a family, unified by a similar look, but each with distinct hues and voices. At later rehearsals, we would be joined by additional string players, but we rarely numbered more than thirty instruments. Sometimes an amateur clarinetist or a flutist would wander into our rehearsal. We'd immediately spot them by the small instrument case they carried and we'd brace ourselves for the awkward conversation that would be sure to follow. “Sorry, but we're a string orchestra. Strings only.” We'd direct them to other amateur ensembles that were full orchestras, such as the Downtown Symphony.

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There's a lot you can do with a string orchestra. We played Dvořák, Offenbach, Vivaldi, and Mozart that first day alone. The music was challenging but possible. I avoided any major embarrassments.

As I settled in, I realized that Eve was among the most experienced players in the group, which was founded in 2007, two years before my first rehearsal with them. While I was looking to her for guidance, I saw others looking to me! Yes, I sometimes got lost on the page of music, but a woman named Margaret, even older than Eve, was having trouble finding the right page. I was to learn that Margaret was actually a competent musician who took the orchestra very seriously. Her main problem was that she was somewhat deaf and did not hear when the conductor announced what piece of music we were playing. She looked about anxiously to see what page we were on, but once the music started, she joined in. It seemed that her deafness was limited to speech; she could hear music quite well. This is something that many older players experience, perhaps because playing an instrument is not simply an aural sensation but a physical one as well. The musical vibrations can help you find your way.
Th
e music comes from you and goes right back into you,
Mr. J said.

There are telltale signs of a cello beginner—colored tape on the neck of the cello (to indicate where to put the fingers of your left hand to get the right sound) and a red dot smack in the middle of the bow (to help you gage the distance you have left when playing a full bow). A middle-aged cellist named Mark had both. He called them his “crutches” and said that they got him through the session without making too many mistakes. He spent much of the first session playing what might be called “air cello,” moving one's bow right over the string so that it looks like you are playing but not risking making a sound. “My ultimate crutch,” he told me with a smile.

The Late Starters Orchestra PDF Free Download

Clearly some of us did not know what we were doing, but that didn't stop us. Built into the system was the reality that the more accomplished players (like Eve, and some even better) would carry the less adept, like Mark, and that, eventually, with repetition and hard work and support, everyone would be brought up to a higher musical level. Meeting Mark and others also helped me realize that my fears were unfounded. In this group of amateurs, I was more at the middle of the pack than at the bottom. I could play. I could contribute something to this orchestra.

Playing cello with this group made me part of something larger than myself. Although there was hardly any conversation between the players, a true sense of camaraderie developed. Without even talking, I could feel it in the air. As members of the New York Late-Starters String Orchestra, we were making music.

The founders of the orchestra insisted on using our full acronym—NYLSO—but I was tickled to use the shorter version, LSO. For classical music lovers, LSO means only one thing: the London Symphony Orchestra, one of the great music ensembles of the world. The idea that I had something in common with the LSO, if only three letters, was too delicious for me to pass up. I signed up as a cellist with NYLSO, but among my friends and family I spoke of LSO.

When that first rehearsal was over, it was like waking from a dream. I had pulled something off that I couldn't have done by myself. We'd made music together, rather sophisticated classical music, even if it didn't always sound so sophisticated. Magda, our conductor, left immediately after the two-hour rehearsal, but many of us spoke excitedly as we packed up our instruments. Eve introduced me to a cellist named Mary and they both urged me to also check out another adult orchestra, the Downtown Symphony, which met at the Borough of Manhattan Community College near Ground Zero. I was interested until Mary told me that I would have to audition to get in. My musical insecurities immediately resurfaced.

Audition
is a scary word; it reminds me of a test. Tests freak me out. They make me feel like I will be exposed, uncovered as a fraud. I suppose that is the one A I don't relate to; the A on a test. I wasn't sure I could ace an audition.

The beauty of the Late Starters Orchestra, you see, is that there is no audition. If you think you can play with the Late Starters, you can play. You're in. The official LSO guidelines are that newcomers should have been playing their instrument “for one year.” But no one checks, no one asks. And, even if they did, playing for a year can mean a lot of different things: Once a day? Once a week? Once a month? Once, period? No one asks because LSO was founded on the premise that serious music isn't only for the accomplished musician. Playing music should be accessible to all, not just the elite, not just the talented, not even just the good, but everyone. And that is what LSO practices, even if that music doesn't go much beyond the glorious A played while tuning up.

“I'm not sure I'm good enough for the Downtown Symphony,” I told Eve and Mary.

“You come,” Mary said, pointing her finger at me. “You may not live long enough to be ‘good enough.' ” Here was another twist on the late-starter philosophy emerging. At this age—and Mary had a good ten to fifteen years on me—don't put off things for tomorrow. Play now!

With Mary's words still ringing in my ears, Elena, the cofounder of the New York Late-Starters String Orchestra, announced that we had to vacate the actors' studio—we were late; our time was up—but that she was leading an expedition to the bar at the Chinese restaurant on the corner for drinks. “Join us,” she said to my little group. I had promised my wife I'd be home right after rehearsal, but the chance to continue the conversation was just too enticing. I crammed myself and my cello into the elevator and made my way to Chef Yu on Eighth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street. It was just after five on a Sunday evening and we were welcomed warmly.

Media Reviews

The Late Starters Orchestra Pdf Free Download And Install

The Late Starters Orchestra PDF Free Download

The Late Starters Orchestra Pdf Free Download Free

'More than just a memoir about music and all that it offers; it is also a warm and moving testament to the opportunities of aging.' - Booklist
'The Late Starters Orchestra is a joy to read - moving, funny, and deeply true in its depiction of those aspirations we put aside until, one day, we realize it's now or never. Ari Goldman's quest to master the cello is an inspiration for dreamers everywhere.' - Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick
'We're all living longer. What should we do with the time? Ari Goldman has a solution. The Late Starters Orchestra is warm, soulful, sometimes rueful, sometimes passionate - just like his beloved cello.' - Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Beak of the Finch
'A lovely, moving story of personal rediscovery disguised as a book about cello-playing.' - David Hajdu, music critic for The New Republic
'I've long believed that there is a musician hiding in each one of us. Ari Goldman's new book, The Late Starters Orchestra, gives us back our natural right to make music...It's an inspiration!' - Julia Wolfe, co-founder of Bang on a Can
'A poignant and loving meditation on teachers and students, fathers and sons, and the great resilience and capacity of the human brain.'- Joshua Henkin, author of The World Without You

The Late Starters Orchestra Pdf free. download full

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