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Posted Nov 11 2009 12:00am

I went cello shopping with my daughter this past weekend. This was our second foray into the land of cellos. A few years back we had to get a three-quarter size instrument. She was young and they match cello height to kid’s height. At that time we were very inexperienced in the cello world. (Not that we’re that much more experienced now.) We went to a store that friends recommended. In a back room, our salesman pulled out cello after cello for my daughter to try. As I looked at all the instruments hanging on racks around the walls, I had to wonder, “How different are they really?” Turns out each cello has a unique voice.

That first trip, I was hoping to get just a simple cello—nothing too fancy. Then my daughter played one of the cellos and the sound just made me melt on the spot. It sang to me and my daughter and that was the cello that we took home. On our second trip, the salesman told me he had a number of cellos in one price range and then another one that was twice as much. He said, “that cello was interesting”—it had a fabulous sound. I went with the fatalistic acceptance that the more expensive cello would be the instrument that would ‘’wow” us. But when we got to the store, that’s not how things turned out.

My daughter started playing. There were four cellos all the same price and then that “interesting” one. The first cello she played—it sang. We worked our way through the line. The third just didn’t respond to her. Its sound under her playing was stiff and off. The last cello, the “interesting” one sounded no better than the first one. And so after about an hour, we settled on the first cello. Another hour later, we had worked our way through seven bows. Again all the bows looked the same, but different ones had different balance. Some were more supple, others stiffer. With the right bow and cello, the sound resonated through the room. Luckily the choice of a case was much easier—we ended up with one that was midnight blue.

So how does this relate to this blog and to recovery? What struck me in this cello hunt was that instruments that are crafted using the same pattern, that are the same size, made of the same materials can still have unique sounds. It is their own sound and how their sound resonates with the musician. In addition, just because a cello is more expensive does not always equal “better” sound. Each has a unique voice and many different factors go into developing that voice.


  • Journal to discover your unique voice. Just as cellos have distinct voices, so do writers. We all have distinct ways we communicate. We have unique ways that we see the world and express our ideas. Here’s the challenge, not every cello’s sound appealed to us. Not every writer’s voice will appeal to all readers. There will be people in your life that will not agree with everything you say. We can’t please everyone all of the time. What can be important is to discover and appreciate your own voice. When you express your ideas, others will start to appreciate your views. When you follow you passions, you will find others will similar dreams that can help support you. When you appreciate and love your own unique voice, others will learn to love and appreciate it too.
  • Journal to discover what false beliefs you may be holding onto as to why others should value you and listen to you. I went cello shopping with the mistaken belief that the more expensive cello was going to have the best sound. That didn’t prove to be true. There often isn’t a better or worse or a good or bad. The world is grayer than that. This cello responded to my daughter’s playing. Other cellos will work better for other musicians. Sometimes people have to try a number of activities (just like a number of cellos) to find the best fit. Journal about misconceptions which might be holding you back.

Go on now, discover your own voice and Write On!

Martha Peaslee Levine, M.D.

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