16PETERWILEYHow I Discovered the CelloI was seven years old when I discoveredthe cello and remember a couple distinctthings. First, the smell. This may sound oddto some.. But that scent stays in my brainsomehow and over my life comes backperiodically. Second, the C string (lowestnote on the cello) is the very first note Iplayed. That beautiful deep, resonant, lownote. I still get goosebumps just thinkingabout it.A family of 5 siblingsMy four brothers and I all playedinstruments at some point in our lives. Myoldest brother, four years older than me,had started to play the violin, so he was ina way greatly responsible for me decidingto play an instrument. I began hearingcomments that I was talented from peopleand it was a way to distinguish myself frommy brothers. As a young child, I’m notsure if I was actually talented or if I wantedto carry the idea forward for my ownpurposes.My Training and Professional CareerI was thirteen years old when I firstattended music school at the CurtisInstitute of Music and spent six years there.My first job was in the Pittsburgh SymphonyOrchestra when I was nineteen years old.Nine months later, I played principal celloin the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra andremained there for eight years. When I left
17Cincinnati, I had no clue where I was headed. I wastwenty-eight and wanted to see the world beyondorchestra life. I took a gamble and moved to theBig Apple and in 1987 I received an invitation tojoin the Mozart Trio, in which I played for elevenyears. I left that group in 1998. For about eight ornine seasons after that, I played with the GuarneriQuartet. I formed a piano quartet somewhere alongthe way and that brings me to my current state.Music has always been one of my greatest lovesand I am incredibly grateful to be a musician. I feelmy life is charmed in a way because music hashelped me to find a path in this chaotic world. I’mnot sure what I would have done without it andmost of all I am thankful that music has enabledme to perform, teach, and earn a living.One Mentor who shaped meOne of the souls I could not have lived withoutis David Soyer who was the first cellist in theGuarneri Quartet. He instilled in me a wonderfulrespect for music, and like most people whomentored me, loved music and respectedcomposers. David Soyer was named my ultimatehero and ultimate mentor. He knew he wouldalways be the person that did the most for me,and was not only a great cellist and phenomenalmusician, but he’s the one that really instilled thevalues that I hope to carry forth at least to somedegree. I think back about lessons with him andcan remember some things that he taught meabout playing the cello, but what I particularlyremember is this value that he projected aboutthe meaning of being a respectful musician. Therewas sort of an umbrella of useful morality overeverything he did and how it was always aboutthe music for him and never about oneself. I oweeverything to him.Meeting the Guarneri QuartetAt age eleven, I met all four members of theGuarneri Quartet and became a huge fan instantly.I never in a million years dreamt to be invited astheir cellist. But it happened. That is of course amajor highlight of my career, which coincidentallyinfluences another highlight: playing all of theBeethoven quartets with one of the greatestquartets of all-time. If I could say how I felt aboutthe Beethoven quartets then I suppose I wouldbe like Beethoven but there is something abouthis soul that is so unreachable, yet is so worthreaching for. I’m incredibly moved by his spiritand I find him to be a gift and am so thankful tohave the ability to comprehend his essence andmessage nestled in his compositions. I’m not amusicologist; in fact, I’m the furthest thing from it,but if some things I heard are correct then there’snothing more significant about Beethoven’s soul.A fond performance memory I was part of thatreally stands out is playing the slow movementof Beethoven’s Quartet in A minor, Opus 132with the Guarneri boys. Specifically, they wereso generous, giving, and loving, and there’ssomething about the poetry and spirituality thatI sensed in the music. When I performed andlistened to the guys play… it just felt so human,giving, and selfless. Unbelievably, there was nospecial preparation for the Beethoven quartets, butrehearsal with the Guarneri Quartet was always awonderful experience. There was a great presenceof camaraderie, food, pleasure, good spirit and, ofcourse, music.Each Composer helps me play musicallyOne thing I constantly ponder is: what would thecomposer like to hear in the music? This thoughtmay seem selfless, but certainly has a selfishpart to it. I have an ego like anybody else, andknow that if I can perform the way a composerwould potentially desire, then I would be doingextraordinarily well and gain attention. Anotherconsistent thought is the attempt to understandthe score and the composer’s blueprint and style.These are things one cannot necessarily read offthe printed page. In addition to these prominentwonderings, I have to trust my musical goodsense and instincts. Smart choices are crucial.Take bowings, for example. It’s easier to say weshould never change a composer’s bowing, butsometimes they are more intended as spacemarks. If I struggle a lot to do it as a bowingand it just doesn’t sound right, then I change it.Negotiating certainly plays a large role in music.