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Know Your Cello — by Wayne Burak

It’s far enough in the past that I can’t remember the exact day it happened.  But I do remember the warning signs—the slightly racing pulse, the sweaty hands and labored breathing—you know, the need to pick up a woodworking plane, some files, chisels and fabricate a cello bridge. I think I had been through several days of lectures on isorhythmic motet, compliments of Eastman music history, when one day my mind drifted into a world of cello parts, setups, fingerboards, tops, backs, ribs, and the most delectable feature – varnish.  Really now, what is more enticing to look at than the iridescent play of colors jumping off of the cello back in the late afternoon sun in the Eastman Annex practice rooms?  It’s simply enough right there to take you [...]

Two Minutes of Your Time — by Brant Taylor

Early in 2011, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will hold auditions hoping to fill two vacancies in our cello section.  In my twelve years of hearing auditions as a member of this ensemble, hundreds of cellists have presented themselves on our stage. Some have done so several times. Their audience is a committee of nine members of the orchestra who sit behind a screen in our otherwise-empty hall.  Some of us take notes during the performances, but the only thing that matters to the process is the simple "yes" or "no" each committee member marks on a blank index card after every player has finished. If a candidate receives at least six "yes" votes in a preliminary audition, he or she advances to the final round.  To those unfamiliar with the [...]