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Relay: Two Cellists

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 18:09

Exactly six years, eight months, and one day have elapsed since the last time I played the cello.

It has to do with the fact that I sold the cello, not a lack of desire to keep playing it. I know the exact time frame I last played it because I listed it on Craigslist when I sold it, and I never deleted any of the emails from my Gmail account, and Gmail is deliciously searchable when an email hoarder like me gets nostalgic.

It sold for $450, which went a long way toward paying for my move from Setauket to Williamsburg, Va., for a new job in 2013. I came close to selling the cello to a lovely family from Noyac, a place mostly unknown to me at that time. All I knew about the faraway East End back then was that Montauk and Sag Harbor were fun to visit (and also, dead whales on the beach were sometimes a thing). People live here year round? Not all UpIslanders realize this. If they did, I’m sure they’d respect our towns more. I’m getting off topic.

The cello. Craigslist. Diane Hewett of Noyac wrote to me and said she wanted to buy it for her very talented son, Dylan. It’s 2020, seven years later, and he’s graduating from Pierson High School this week. Soon he’ll be off to the Sunderman Conservatory at Gettysburg in September to continue studying music. My cello could perhaps have been his middle-school practice cello but Diane’s message got to me a few hours too late. According to the time-stamps in my Gmail account, I sold it to the guy who emailed me right before she did.

Thus, Diane and I never did meet each other back then.

I spent a year and a half in Williamsburg before I decided Long Island was my home. In the spring of 2015 I returned and started writing for The Star, learning immediately that yes, duh, of course people live here year round. I met Diane soon after, through her volunteer work with the Noyac Civic Council. But I didn’t recognize her name until, about quarter past 10 last Tuesday, I was shuffling through really old emails and came across hers from all those years ago. I wrote to her right away. Indeed this was the same person who’d emailed me about the cello.

That cello. The last thing I played on it the night before I sold it was a sad, sweet melody I wrote to accompany the piano ballad “Foolish Games” by Jewel, a singer mainstream radio hasn’t heard from in a while, but who I really loved in high school. I’m watching the music video for the first time right now, as I write this. The video is too late-’90s emo now for my bubblegum-pop aesthetic, all moody blue filters and hair-in-the-face close-ups and random horses running around. I would have really dug it back then, back before I was on all these meds for bipolar disorder. Why does “Foolish Games” have 29 million YouTube views and “Sugar High,” the climactic rock-anthem from the cult movie “Empire Records,” have only 1.3 million? It’s probably not because “Sugar High” doesn’t have a cello part.

So I reached out to Dylan, Diane’s son. I wanted to know more about his experiences as a cellist. Like me, he was the only one in the high school orchestra for a while. His favorite selections are the six Bach cello suites. He likes them “because Bach didn’t write many markings or dynamics when he wrote the suites, so they are interpreted in so many different ways by performers around the world,” he told me on Sunday.

“If I didn’t have music in my life I wouldn’t know what I would do,” he told me. “Playing music brings me so much joy.” Me too, kid. Now I really miss that cello.

He also likes practicing the electric bass, guitar, and drums. “I would love to learn the saxophone, too, if I ever get a chance to!” Dylan says. I didn’t tell him this at the time, but those are all the makings of not just a prolific professional musician, but also a potential indie rock band member. I briefly played the cello for such a band, even recording various parts for a few songs on its album, back in like 2005 and 2006. Wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

Chatting with Dylan has made me wish I still had a cello to play; circumstances preclude that for me right now. I miss that familiar tone, deep range, and the feeling of the cello against my body. It was like I could wrap my arms around music.

Dylan, if you read this, keep going. Keep learning and practicing. The sky’s the limit for you; I truly wish you all the best. Don’t sell your cello unless you get a new one first. And always reply to your emails, because you just never know who you’ll connect with someday.

Christine Sampson is The Star’s deputy managing editor.

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