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playing the cello

She has a complicated relationship with her cello but Dr Francesca Black of Glen Iris Veterinary Hospital in Victoria will never give it up.

“I have a music degree and taught cello for 10 years before becoming a vet. After I finished my music degree, I entered the life of chronic auditioning and stress where you never have a secure job. It’s a pretty cutthroat industry to be a professional musician. I couldn’t see myself living that kind of life forever. I also felt a lot of stress around my music when it was a job rather than just my thing to do. 

“When obtaining my science and vet degrees, I supported myself by teaching cello. Without that I wouldn’t have been able to put myself through uni. It was a real gift. I would teach three nights a week and all day Saturday. I loved sharing the music with the little kids I taught. That was fun and a nice contrast to what I was doing at university.

“I spent a few years playing with the Stonnington Symphony, a good community orchestra. A lot of the musicians are doctors, lawyers and people like me who’ve had careers as musicians but now do something else. They run four seasons a year and you can join for just one season. We played at the Melbourne [Royal Botanic] Gardens after the COVID lockdowns. It was lovely to be in front of an audience and outdoors again. It almost felt illegal.

“I love the cello but I find I never play to relax after a hard day. I tend to reach for my guitar, something I’ve just started. I like the challenge of learning something new whereas I’m pretty accomplished with the cello. If I commit to another season with the orchestra then I’ll bust out the cello and learn the repertoire.

“I was just a child when I decided to learn cello. I saw someone playing it at my primary school and knew that was my instrument. It’s said that the cello is closest to a human voice and people with empathy tend to gravitate towards it. While I have an open, beginner’s mindset for the guitar, the cello carries a bit of emotional baggage. I feel pressure when I pick it up and discover how much I have lost since the last time I played. 

“I can’t give up the cello. It’s like having a second language. You may not use it for years but that doesn’t mean you’ve given it up. You can start using it again anytime. Cello will be part of me wherever life’s journey takes me.”


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