cello in the 'Berliner Philharmoniker'
I played the cello from the very start. My parents asked me if I wanted to learn an instrument, and above all, which. In our family we had a friend who was a cellist, and to me it was clear enough that the cello was to be my instrument. I began at the age of 6, soon after my sister had begun with the piano, so that was a good combination.
Naturally a 6 year old is unlikely to be so thrilled or even pleased by an instrument as to practise it an hour a day without more ado, and I was no exception. In the first 4 or 5 years the spring would have run dry had my mother not urged me on. She helped me without real coercion, and without her I might not have coped. It was simply a rule that I had to practise once a day, naturally not for an hour - perhaps for a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes. It was during the first 4 or 5 years that my mother kept me at it. My teacher had not won me over to such an extent that I was keen to sit down with the cello of my own accord.
Later there came a moment of realisation that I had somehow got on. This was due to a prize in a small competition, which showed me that the 6 or 7 years had not been in vain. From then on, I noticed that I was able to keep on learning without being pushed. I would sit down of my own accord and think of what I ought to learn.
Though having a job, my mother showed that she had time for me, and this was important, not in the sense that she had me sit down and practise the cello for half an hour a day, but rather in the sense that we both sat down and did something together, just the two of us. Then after 20 minutes I was able to say: 'I've learnt something! The 20 minutes have gone, but tomorrow we'll meet again.' So firstly there was the experience of being with my mother, secondly the experience of co-operation, and thirdly the experience with the cello. To a child, they are all important.
'Sacré du printemps' was one of the orchestra's first big projects with children. It's wonderful to sit there playing the music in the presence of youngsters feeling it with the same intensity and even having to dance to it. They have to absorb it fully and be one with it. You can see how fully they concentrate, like youngsters in general, on being new to dancing as a means of expression. The music really matters to them. On seeing that as a musician, you feel for the first time that your work has a real purpose. With our few means we can really achieve something.
Simon is right. This is just the right way to go up to children. Our project was only the first, so I'm now looking forward to playing in a school in the coming weeks. These are only small steps on the way to new listeners, but in time they may be extended, then we shall no longer wait for folk to venture into our hall.
Simon Rattle is interested in more than popularising the Philharmonic Hall. He wants to open the world of music up to everyone, especially to folk normally beyond its reach. And this is the hurdle we have to get over, since otherwise there are folk with no knowledge of us. Sometimes, for instance, parents of my children's friends tell me: 'You're lucky. At home you have instruments, and you play one yourself. Whenever you practise, the children hear you, so you don't have to say: "Once a week you're going to visit a teacher, and you're going to begin playing an instrument!"'
Certainly, sending them off is no way to go about it, but you can't expect them at their age to practise every day for fun. They have to get to know the whole range of music. Schools may expect them to do so already at home, but parents tend to expect the opposite - that children do so at school during music lessons. That's unrealistic. At a certain age children are not thrilled about music, but if you draw their attention to its possibilities, you do at least set them going.
What we are trying to do is to reach all levels of society and to show them something of what a classical orchestra or part of it is able to do. This is only the start. We want to arouse children's interest to such an extent that a switch in their minds clicks and a door opens. At that moment, they will have experienced something new, something they may want to explore.