24 May 2022

"Learn at your own pace" – musician spotlight with Melanie Jones, cellist

By Lark Music

An accomplished cellist and pianist, Melanie Jones has been performing for many years – playing with orchestras, chamber groups and unaccompanied across a varied repertoire, from baroque to contemporary styles. She has a keen interest in educating and composes her own music for children. Read on to hear about her musical journey so far.

Do you play professionally?

Yes, I do, as an unaccompanied cellist and chamber musician.

Several years ago, I had a late diagnosis of autism – I had struggled with this developmental disorder all the way through my education, unaware I had it. As a student at music school/college, I played in the Symphony Orchestra as required. I would always practice the cello parts to get them up to the standard I wanted, only to then experience disappointment and confusion when my playing fell to bits many times during orchestra rehearsals.

It was the autism I didn’t know I had and, although I love the orchestral repertoire, it is too over-stimulating and stressful for me to be part of such a large ensemble. I have given many recitals with piano and on unaccompanied cello dating back to before I started music college, and I’m much more comfortable with this type of performing.

Since 2018, I have also branched out into composition. I have composed and performed a few pieces for solo cello, consisting of variations based on folk melodies. Since 2020, I have been composing music for children to listen to on both piano and cello and have written 17 pieces. Some of them are in major keys, some in minor keys (although I admit I’m a sucker for the Dorian Mode), and I’m now beginning to record these compositions.

“Being autistic has taken me down a different path as a performer and educator.”

I enjoy arranging music too, and a current project is arranging Mr. Sandman for three instruments, which I will perform and record, and then add to my list for children. Being autistic has taken me down a different path as a performer and educator. Perhaps what I’m currently working on is quite different or unusual – I definitely have a few plates spinning at the moment.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to learn the cello?

In my opinion, there are three main things to think about:

  1. Finding a really thorough teacher, who looks after your playing both musically and technically/physically, is essential because without quality basic technique the student can experience aches and pains. The student and the cello are a team, and you should never feel as though you are fighting each other.
  2. Another thing is understanding that you need to be patient with yourself while on your musical journey. Regular practice is important, however it’s vital that you learn at your own pace so you can fully understand everything you are doing.
  3. The other thing is building on your musicianship, which is your understanding of the language of music. Doing some Solfa singing of simple songs/pieces will help your inner-hearing to develop, meaning that you will be playing in tune sooner. Solfa singing has many other benefits too – an understanding of melody, pulse, rhythm, harmony and form. Solfege enables overall learning to be smoother, which I can say from experience.


What is the first music concert you went to and do you have a memory that stands out?

The first concert I went to was in Uppermill – I was 9 years old and my Dad took me. I think I had been playing cello for only a couple of months. The concert was the Northern Sinfonia with Heinrich Schiff (cellist) playing the Concerto in C Major by Haydn. I will never forget his amazing control over the instrument, his incredibly virtuosic playing, and the wonderful sound that he made. All the way through this performance I was watching him wide-eyed. It was very inspiring and made clear to me just what is possible on the cello. I’m so grateful to my father for taking me to this concert.

Do you come from a musical family?

Yes, I think I do come from a musical/artistic family, except most of my relatives didn’t get the chance to play instruments. This doesn’t mean they aren’t musical. I think my mother is musically very talented – when I hear her singing, it’s always in tune and what she improvises with her voice is always interesting to listen to, but she doesn’t play an instrument.

My father is artistically talented too – since I began the cello he became more interested in classical music and string instruments. Roughly 15 years later he attended a violin-making course and, in time, completed his first violin. It’s a good one, and I’m proud of him. Two professionals I know tried it and really liked it. He has since then completed a cello, and I’m waiting for it to be finished/varnished so that I can start it off on its life! Want to find out more about Melanie or connect?

Youtube: Melanie Jones

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