Suffering and Discipline-Guest Blog Marie Smith The Cello Bard


On Discipline and Suffering:

A Perspective-Body:Mind:Spirit:Soul


Discipline. I’m a cellist. I didn’t get to be a cellist by magically waking up one day able to play Dvorak. I started with Twinkle Twinkle when I was nine and kept going. Every day. When my friends wanted to go out to play, I practiced. When my friends wanted to go to a movie, I practiced. I had a single minded devotion to the cello at an early age. I loved the way it sounded and felt to play. I still love the way it sounds and feels to play. Practicing was, and is, the best part of my day. I learned to defer immediate gratification for something bigger. I played the cello because it pleased me to do it. Wasn’t about the applause. It was because it brought me joy. Thirty years later, I still get a huge kick of joy in my practice room when I nail a high D with my third finger and feel my spine tingle in it.  No one forced me to practice, in fact I got told to stop by my parents. Do your homework, Marie! Go to bed!


Irish Proverb: There is no luck, except where there is discipline. 


I was in the Chicago Civic Orchestra — Training Orchestra for the Chicago Symphony, as a kid. I got to play under Sir Georg Solti on stage at Orchestra Hall. How did I get there? Did I walk in and audition? Yes. However… 


This was my life in freshman year of high school at age 14


5:30  AM Wake up. Practice scales for 20 minutes. Practice etudes (Study pieces)

6:30  AM  Practice Bach

7:00  AM Shower, dress, eat breakfast, hop on school bus with cello. Finish homework.

8:00  AM orchestra rehearsal

9:00  AM English Class

10:00 AM Study Hall. Study? No. Practice Sonata in practice room? Yes.

11:00 AM return to school 

3:45   PM eat snack

4:00   PM Practice concerto

6:00   PM wolf down dinner

6:15   PM practice concerto

9:00   PM practice orchestra parts

10:00 PM Parents tell me to stop practicing. “DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK!” Oh No! Oh No! English paper is due. Oh no! Set down cello. Do homework.

11:00  PM Fake together some stuff for school. Read Hamlet? To do or not to do? Not to do! Skip algebra, too. Do that on the bus…

12:00 AM Fall asleep


Next day, wake up and do the same thing.




5:30 AM wake up. Practice for next 12 hours.

8:00  PM Attend concert with buddies in Chicago. Can’t believe we got tickets to see U2!!!!  Sing along! (“One man come in the name of love..”)

11:30 PM Curfew? Ummm, no. Dance and scream at concert! YAY! U2! This is so cool! (“Sunday Bloody Sunday!”)

1:45 AM Come home to angry parents!  “CURFEW! YOU ARE GROUNDED!”  So? I saw U2! That was worth getting grounded for a month! Coolest concert ever!

2:00 AM Snooze.




5:30 AM wake up. Practice for next 12 hours


Every… single… day… didn’t matter if the moon was full, half full, blue, or harvest. This was what I did. I practiced nine hours a day on weekdays, 24 hours on weekends. 


THEN I auditioned for the Chicago Civic–Training Orchestra for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. That’s how I got to sit under Sir Georg Solti’s baton, an experience I will never forget. Solti was way cooler than that U2 concert! It’s also how I got to attend a high school for the performing arts. “There is no luck, except where there is discipline.” 


Intense self discipline does make it possible to survive tough situations, because I know how to keep going even when I want to quit. I have no idea why those NFL players took off their life vests. I don’t know what was running through their minds. I haven’t been tested in open ocean. I do know that I’ve been tested in other ways and discipline helps a ton. It really does.


Speaking of discipline, it’s Monday. That means I need to take my chemo pre meds, cram some food in my gut, and hope and pray that chemo doesn’t knock me on my butt until Friday like it did last week. I suffered a ton with it last week and right now I’m afraid to enter into the tunnel of chaos again. But I will because my life demands that I do this. My cello likes when I play him, and my novel just got a whole new plot twist added to it, and.. and I got hired to do some freelance writing, and I’ve got pamphlets I need to get moving on, and… and I have shows coming up in April and.. and I have a life that’s worth chemo tolls for!  


So, I will pay the chemo toll.


Hopefully without too many tears. I’ll wake up tomorrow around 5:30 PM. That’s Tuesdays. I hate Tuesdays. But, I love Wednesdays – Mondays, so it’s worth dark Tuesday. I’m heading into a cave now. Ten minutes from now, my brain will evaporate from anti nausea drugs blurring my thinking and I’ll be in a fog. Sigh. I’m off to do what I gotta do.


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