Monday, March 4, 2013

Failed Cellist Biography

As a music student, I was always impressed by the achievements listed in the biographies of cello soloists in the concert programs. And like many fellow students, I couldn't wait until I had achievements of my own to write down in my biography. I saw all kinds of approaches to writing a biography from my friends, from citing newspaper quotes, to bulging facts that are barely true, or just keeping it short and simple.

It is definitely a challenge to keep a biography honest, since everyone is trying to emphasize how great they are. One of my favorites is the term "Top Prize Winner", which is used by numerous musicians, some of them very respected, to look like they won the First prize of a competition when in fact they did not.  Sometimes it is due to the fact that no First Prize was awarded, which I admit is an awkward situation. Other times, musicians use it when they just got one of the 4 or 5 Prizes in the Finals but consider that any one of those Prizes deserves to be called a "Top Prize". Later on, an audience member will read your biography and assume from that term that you indeed won the competition.

Luckily, most musicians keep their biography honest. Even better, I was still a very young music student in Montpellier (France) when I came accross, if I am correct, a very unusual biography of Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma. Instead of listing all his achievements, this biography told the truth: all the failed challenges, the frustrations, everything that musicians will likely encounter on their path to a musical career but desperately try to forget.

I thought this was a great concept, especially considering that we probably learn the most from our mistakes and that even the most successful musicians often failed some of their challenges.

So here is my Failed Cellist Bio. If anyone else wants to give it a try, I would be happy to publish other examples on this post.

Blaise Déjardin, cello

Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1984, Blaise Déjardin did not play a concerto with orchestra until the late age of 14 years old. Actually, he didn’t even play a note on the cello until he was 8 years old, an age at which most musical prodigies have already made their Carnegie Hall debut. In the meantime, he did improve his skills at soccer, tennis and table tennis. He also went to school just like any French kid, learning all kinds of things sadly unrelated to the Dvorak Cello Concerto. What a waste of time.

In 1998, he took part in his first Music Competition in Wattrelos, France, failing miserably to get a Prize. Not to mention that the First Prize went to a bass player, to make the humiliation complete.
Curious to know how bad he really was, he auditioned for a spot at the Conservatoire Superieur de Musique de Paris and fell short in the final round. Such a result confirmed his status as a non-talented, non-special, non-amazing cellist.
He later on stayed on track with his talent, failing to win the 1st Prize in several International Cello Competitions, sometimes not even reaching the Finals.
His audition for prestigious chamber music programs like the Marlboro Festival (USA) or Seiji Ozawa’s Chamber Music Academy in Switzerland also brought negative results. He obviously wasn’t meant to play the cello. He was barely allowed to participate in a masterclasse in Germany, being told by an unknown German cello teacher that his bow-hold was simply wrong.
He later on failed all the School Solo Competitions at the New England Conservatory of Music, proving that really, sticking to table tennis might have been a better idea.

Now struggling to lower his golf handicap, Blaise Dejardin is a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where listening to his fantastic colleagues reminds him every day that his presence on stage has to be a mistake.


  1. I know that learning about the struggles others have had has often helped me to be more patient and persistent in my own efforts.

    The best music teacher I've ever known personally was the one who, in his late teens, discovered that he was going to have to relearn his entire technique from scratch if he was going to continue in music and complete music school. He told me it was excruciating at the time, but that he believes it was living that experience that made him such a good teacher. (He wasn't a good teacher by the way- he was an exceptional one.)

    In a similar vein, my mom said that the best chemistry tutors at the university she attended were the ones who had failed chemistry classes, often multiple times. They were the ones who knew how it felt to struggle and fail. Of necessity they had learned many different ways of approaching and explaining the material. Perhaps most importantly, they were living examples of what the other side of struggle can look like: compassionate success.

    I loved this post. It was just what I needed today. Thank you.

    And congratulations on being such a remarkable failure! :)

  2. Thanks for reading, Melanie! Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Bravo! I really enjoyed it!