Tonight I went to a practice session with my cello friend, Mathew. When I took my cello out of the case, I was surprised to find that it was very nearly in tune. Nice. My cello goes out of tune after one octave of a scale, but a car ride from Astoria to Washington Heights does nothing to it.
I was worried the session would turn into a cello lesson for me and Mathew would get nothing out of it, but I think the session ended up benefiting both of us, as intended. I got to learn from him, and he got to practice as well. Despite how horrendously I played for most of the evening, I was definitely playing better by the end. Mathew noticed that my bridge was really crooked and fixed it, which will hopefully help the tuning situation. He also gave me a whole bunch of pointers on the basics of cello playing, which I hope I remember. I'm going to try practicing in front of a mirror, because I can't for the life of me keep my left hand where it's supposed to be.
Mathew also suggested I improvise on the cello as a way to learn the instrument better. This reminded me of something one of my composition professors told me in college. He is an avid improviser. His primary instrument is the violin, but he often improvises on the piano. He told me he's not a pianist, but he becomes one when he improvises. When you're not worrying about the notes you're playing, the resulting music is free and effortless.
I am so thankful to Mathew for our practice session and for being my cello buddy. My learning the cello is still a personal journey, but it's a lot less lonely (and treacherous) with a guide.