Vagabonding with your cello (or other musical instrument)

Over at the Q&A, Matt from Ohio wrote in with a rather esoteric query:

“I read Vagabonding a year ago and have finally paid off my student loans and saved up enough money to head off for as long as my finances/stamina will allow. My only concern is this: I’ve played cello since I was 6 and I’m afraid my technique and skills will wither away after a year or more away from it. Is there any solution to this problem you can see?”

This is what I told him:

“A cello is far too cumbersome for easy vagabonding, but this doesn’t mean your cello skills need to deteriorate as you travel. I suggest two possible solutions: either contacting local cellists and orchestras as you travel, or bringing along a collapsible travel cello.

“Of these options, the first might be the most interesting. I’m not sure how easy this would be to do, but you might try contacting national and community orchestras along your travel itinerary (either in advance or as you go). These orchestras are surprisingly common, and can be found in almost any country, from Thailand to Egypt to to Latvia to Paraguay. This process is potentially going to be a bit time-consuming — but it could also be quite rewarding, as it will give you a pretext to meet fellow musicians in other countries. Music schools might work as well. The idea is to meet cellists who can help you find a practice instrument in their town. I’d imagine many such cellists will even invite you to play with their quartet or orchestra — especially in smaller communities, where having an American guest cellist would be a novelty.

“The second option would be to make the (somewhat pricey) investment and buy a travel cello. A little Google research reveals that a few companies make them. In a interview, for instance, New York Philharmonic cellist Carter Brey recommends the electronic SVC-50 cello by Yamaha, which can collapse to fit in an airline overhead bin (star session cellist Erik Friedlander has also mentioned this as his travel cello). This model costs about $1800, but you might find a cheaper model on eBay. For a cheaper, non-electronic travel cello, check out the collapsible Prakticello.

“One advantage of traveling with a collapsible cello is that it will be a great conversation-starter in whichever hostel, guesthouse, garden or street you choose to practice!”

To all of this I might add that this advice can be applied to travel with nearly any instrument. That is, use your musical skills and passions as a pretext to meet local musicians as you travel. This might be a tad time-consuming, but it’s a great way to get off the backpacker circuit and meet new people!

Posted by | Comments Off on Vagabonding with your cello (or other musical instrument)  | June 15, 2005
Category: Vagabonding Advice

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