I started playing the cello in the second grade in Syracuse, New York. My high school, West Genesee, had a great orchestra and I'm sure we played major orchestral pieces similar to those currently being played by smaller city orchestras. Nonetheless, our conductor, John Whitney, also encouraged several of us to partake in "jazz lab" or to participate in pit orchestras. In addition, we were fortunate to have major jazz and rock musicians come and play with us (Jeff Tyzik, for example).

While I thoroughly enjoyed my studies with my cello teacher, what struck me was that a cellist could also play music outside the mainstream classical genre. Consequently, when I went on to college at St. Bonaventure University, I signed up for jazz band, where I was the only string player. In addition, some friends and I used to play at several of the coffeehouses -- two guitars and a cello -- playing music from the Moody Blues to Peter Frampton.

At the age of 34, I have just finished my biggest gig -- a rock concert at our church attended by over 400 people. I was on stage with my cello and the rest of my band, which consists of two guitarists, a bass guitarist, a keyboardist, a drummer, a violinist, and a vocalist. Okay, you may think I am crazy, but several in the audience forgot how many 70's, 80's and 90's rock and roll tunes used cello and they thoroughly enjoyed what we performed! We played 18 songs total -- songs from the Moody Blues (who wrote many great ones with cello), Doobie Brothers, REM, U2, and the great "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas. I still enjoy classical music and play it occasionally. However, there is nothing like reaching an audience of 17-70 year olds in one night by breaking out the cello in this fashion. No matter how we use it and in what capacity, it's still the cello!

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