Because my life has mostly shifted away from music and towards journalism, my cello Dotty and I haven’t spent much time together, which is a strange feeling for both of us – I assume she misses me as much as I miss her. No, I’m not anthropomorphizing my instrument; she really does have feelings!
From the age of ten onwards, I had a cello in my hands (except for a brief stint of rebellion in the 11th grade) constantly. Orchestras, chamber groups, and gigs were not safe from my musical hunger that eventually won me spots to two universities on scholarship and weaseled me into two Miami bands that had a taste for strings.
Injury dampened my journey and surgery threw a terrifying wrench in my forward musical momentum, which inevitably left me more than a little lost. What brought me back to music after my cello rebellion in the 11th grade was the fact that I ached to play again. Music, its preparation and creation, has always filled a hunger in me and also served as an emotional outlet. Music has tied me to others, helped me find friends, and kept me fed through recording, performing, gigging, and teaching.
I taught cello for ten years, which was some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. I got to show kids and adults how to tap into music and give them the same outlet that music and my teachers gave me.
Recently, I gave it up. I never thought I would give up performing and teaching, but I did. It isn’t for good, but it is because a new dream bubbled its way from my core to my consciousness, grabbed hold, and wouldn’t let me go until I made it happen. That dream, as many of you know, is to be a writer, a journalist.
Throughout my youth, my university years, and even my late twenties, writing accompanied my music, but I wasn’t fully aware of how integrated a part of my life it was. I wrote stories as a kid and loved school writing assignments. University saw my words on paper in the form of musical reviews and studies. When I happened upon Hallyu (the Korean wave) and Korean drama and K-pop, my output turned into this blog, Raine’s Dichotomy. From there, I began to freelance at HanCinema, then Soompi, United Kpop, Interweave, and more. It roller-coastered. All the while I played cello.
Then I decided to do something crazy at the age of thirty-two. I decided that I needed to travel South Korea to make my dreams as a writer come true. And, so I did. The problem with traveling a foreign country is that Dotty, my lifelong musical companion, was left behind. Yes, I could’ve rented a cello, but I was busy traveling all over Korea. In the months that I was in Korea, I missed my music, but I was busy chasing dreams, and very happy doing so.
Now I’m home for the holidays and my cello has been whimpering in her case, wondering when I would come to play.
Today was that day.
As many of you know, I’m a SHINee fan and as you may have guessed, the recent passing of singer Jonghyun has thrown my life into turmoil. Since 2011, I’ve been a dedicated SHINee fan. Their music, style, production, dancing, and general presence in the K-pop scene has been something that has been more than a pastime for me as I followed them. My sister has walked alongside me in this particular journey.
Coping with death is never easy, and some of us may feel strange grieving for a person we’ve never met (well, I met him once!), but if you have dedicated time to an artist as we have, it makes so much sense to feel a loss. I’ve spent a lot of my time crying and reading the news. I’ve done very little creatively to fill the void.
Rather than cry, I grabbed Dotty for the first time in months. I was admittedly nervous, afraid I wouldn’t be able to play. I know my muscles have lost their strength, my fingers their callouses, and my ear its fine-tuning. But the second we met again, it was like home. Sure, I exhausted myself quickly, but playing Dotty was better than crying. I worked an arrangement I’d done of a K-pop tune and shaped and molded my technique and lines like I’d been trained to do for years.
It felt so good. And it allowed my emotions to escape rather than be bottled up, ready to burst from the immense pressure of grief.
Today I say “Hello Cello” to Dotty who sure is happy to be freed from the basement.