While growing up in South Carolina, Theodore Buchholz discovered the cello; with the help of the right teacher, he discovered the camaraderie of performing with and learning from other cellists. Buchholz says he hopes to re-create that experience with the local chapter of the American String Teachers Association at the first Tucson Cello Congress, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12, at Tucson High School. The cost is $20 and includes lunch. For more information, visit www.astaaz.com/news.php?id=87, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you find yourself in Tucson?
My wife grew up here. We had been living in New York. I finished my degree at the Manhattan School of Music, and we both always thought of this as an interesting part of the country. There are lots of good arts taking place here, too. The Tucson Symphony (Orchestra) is very good, and I began playing with them after we moved here.
You also got a job teaching as an adjunct professor, right?
Yes, at Pima Community College, teaching cello. I started this fall with three cellists, and next semester, we have seven. It's a growing program. I think that happens (because of) word of mouth, but I hope it helps that I'm also a high-energy teacher and involved in the music community of Tucson. That's very important.
Where did you get this idea of a Cello Congress?
I grew up in South Carolina. My teacher was very active in creating a cello community. I wanted to replicate that here. When you're a young student, you don't get a lot of opportunities to play together. This will be the chance for some to play in an ensemble for the first time. It feels good coming together, and you play better as a result.
You mentioned that bringing cellists together in Tucson hasn't happened in a long time. When was the last time?
(The late UA professor) Gordon Epperson was the last person to do this, and that was probably about 10 to 15 years ago. There is an event every year in Phoenix, but for some reason, to me, that's a long way to go. We think it's important to do something in Tucson.
What is it about the cello for you?
(Players of) other instruments don't really congregate the way we do. There's the New York Violoncello Society, and in California, the Cello Club. The cello lends itself to ensemble. It blends well and allows everyone to play all the different parts beautifully together. Cellists also have a more laid-back approach, which lends itself to easily establishing community.
Why did you pick the cello?
It simply began for me (because) we had a cello in the house, but I also had a very good teacher. To go into this, you have to play well, very well, and you have to be able to teach.
You mentioned when you were a young cellist. You're only 27, so, technically, you know you're still a young cellist.
(Laughs.) I was told that if I was going to be a professor, I should either grow a beard or be a really, really good teacher. Obviously, I do take my teaching seriously. (Touches his clean-shaven face.)
Is there anything you're particularly excited about regarding this first Cello Congress?
This is an all-day event for all levels. We're expecting a little more than 80 people. We would have liked to have seen 100 to 120 people, but for the first year, this is good. We're also really excited about the teachers leading the master classes and workshops. Xiao-Dan Zheng, who is the principal cellist of the Tucson Symphony, will be there. UA (Assistant) Professor Mark Votapek will be leading a high school workshop. We also feel very lucky to have Harvey Wolfe; he was a longtime member of the Cleveland Orchestra, and is retired here. Some of the other teachers involved are Mary Beth Tyndall, Adrienne Horne and Drew Nickles.
What do you hope participants take with them?
We'd like for the participants to take home a growing sense of enthusiasm for the cello and for playing music in general. Cellists will connect with other like-minded cellists. For young cellists, there are so many distractions, and we would love for them to be inspired to pick up their cello rather than a video game after they leave the Cello Congress. Most importantly, everyone who is there loves the cello in some way, and if you put that together, and multiply by the 80 or so participants who will be there, I think it will be hard to not be inspired.