two-thirds of the cellos

two-thirds of the cellos

How many basses can you fit into your car?’

That question is not the first half of a joke. There is no punchline. The orchestra director really needs to know how many basses you can fit into your car because all of those suckers have to be driven off-site to the district’s Music Performance and Assessment Festival and they absolutely will not be riding on the bus along with the children.

Having only ever had to fit one in my car, I did not have an answer to this question.

“Um, it’s a van,” I told her, my voice going up on the word ‘van’ as if maybe she might be the person to confirm this fact for me. “Maybe I can fit two in it?

I was wrong. If someone else was loading my van, then maybe; when I’m the one moving instruments around, nervous that mysterious pieces I don’t understand are going to bang together and render one or another unplayable, the number of basses I can fit in my car is one—and three cellos.

When your hope in what’s possible starts flagging, consider finding your way to a concert performed by public middle school children. Watch sixth and seventh graders sitting at attention, bringing up instruments provided by the city to play pieces as collaborators with an eye toward creating something that would be impossible without one another. They do this in spite of everything they may be experiencing at home and in the classroom. Scores of children, playing the strings, getting so close to what the composer intended that your eyes become wide and you think, ‘Well, that’s something we’re getting right, anyway.’

“This was a wonderful way to start the day,” festival judge and Associate Professor of Music Education at Arizona State Dr. Margaret Schmidt told the intermediate strings group from Marcel’s school after they’d finished performing.

She was right, too.