My parents sang in the church choir and they both loved music, but my mother was a very wounded woman. She refused to let me have an instrument - her father had chopped their piano up with an axe when she was a little girl. He did a lot of other sadistic things too, including beating and raping my grandmother repeatedly throughout the years. My mother was the first of 12 children and she was mothering her siblings by the time she was a toddler. My grandmother had been abandoned in Poland when she was four years old, and spent her childhood, in her words, as a servant child with her relatives. She would not tell me how she gained passage to America at the age of 21 but insisted her parents (who had moved to America and started a new family) did not help her. My grandmother came from the Gurali of Southern Poland - a tradition with a deep musical heritage - and she was never given an instrument. She once told me a story about how her cousin got a beautiful harmonica for his birthday and she was irate - she should get an instrument. She stole it, ran into the woods, dug a hole, buried it and shit on it. If she couldn't have it, neither could he.
If I am going to be miserable, so are you. And this was my mother's motto. I fell in love with music anyway - I played the radio all the time and pined for an instrument my entire childhood. At the age of 12 my mother announced that she would stop beating me because now I was a woman and no one should beat a woman. The mind games, the jealousy and the indoctrination of self-loathing persisted. Finally, my sister got me a guitar for Christmas when I was 13.
I devoured the guitar. I went through six teachers in my first year and the 7th was a charm, perhaps the most important person to ever step into my life. One day he was explaining to me what a triad was by playing Moonlight Sonata on the guitar. I had never heard anything so beautiful. I started exploring the world of classical music and in the process discovered the cello. My high school chorus teacher found an abandoned instrument and gave it to me when I graduated.
I entered Ithaca College as a classical guitarist, dropped out after one semester because I had no money, and kept focusing on the cello. Eventually I re-enrolled, and soon after, switched my major to cello. After graduating, I moved to New York City, won a position in a fellowship orchestra and entered the freelance scene while continuing to grow as a cellist and musician.
My search for the right technique that would give me freedom and stability took many years. In time I came to understand that my biggest obstacle to becoming the cellist I wanted to be was the trauma that was stored in my body as well as the corrupted files in the boot drive of my brain that were mucking up my learning process. You see, the human brain at birth is small in comparison to what it will be as an adult. We are not hard-wired. We do not pop out of the womb and start walking like a foal. Our neurons are grown with the help or hinderance of our surroundings. If a child grows up fearing for its life at every moment, their nervous system will reflect these patterns. This is the double-edged sword of brain plasticity. It is why we can be "brainwashed". The issues are not only behavioral, or better put, the body itself has "behaviors" such as high blood pressure, or muscle cramps.
If we survived a physical trauma, the physical response to that event is stored in our procedural memory, and all or part of that response can be triggered by any sensation that was present during the initial event. If you contracted your body to protect your vital organs, or lashed out to defend yourself, this may be part of your response; or, if fight or flight was not available, the body can go into the para-sympathetic response of "freeze". In nature this is seen as playing dead. In humans it can translate to dissociative issues and depression. Trauma is defined as a threat to life - real or perceived. It is part of the human condition. Some people have a handful of traumas, some have bucketfuls. The nervous system can get knocked out of joint by a single incident, say, waking up from anesthesia during surgery. In my case, it was bucketfuls, which translates to the condition of Complex PTSD.
Most teachers didn't understand my challenges. In the end it was my own diligence of searching that brought me to the people who could help. I worked my way up from barely being able to read music and not knowing how to follow a conductor to playing principal cellist in some fine orchestras and subbing in the New York City Ballet. I have accompanied the 9/11 ceremonies at Ground Zero with my own cello ensemble arrangements and was invited as a guest artist at the opening of Lincoln Center's David Rubenstein Atrium. Every year since graduation I have given a solo recital. I have played lots of chamber music and a few concertos. My musical life is a balance of gigs, artistic endeavors, teaching and writing.