The Late Starters Orchestra

Ari L. Goldman
  • Review
By – April 30, 2014

Delight­ful is the best word to describe Ari L. Goldman’s book, The Late Starters Orches­tra. Gold­man has cap­tured the humor, strug­gles, humil­i­a­tions, and tri­umphs of learn­ing to play the cel­lo for his six­ti­eth birth­day par­ty. The sto­ry will res­onate with all of us who have decid­ed to acquire a new skill such as speak­ing Span­ish, play­ing an instru­ment, becom­ing a gourmet cook or engag­ing in sig­nif­i­cant Torah study at the ten­der age of fifty, six­ty, or older. 

The Late Starters Orches­tra is much more than a per­son­al jour­ney, it is also a behind the scenes account of a string orches­tra. Many of us have heard the tun­ing” process that occurs at the begin­ning of a con­cert. But did you know that the process of ensur­ing that the string instru­ments are in tune” begins with the instru­ments play­ing the note of A”? The A is an open string” which means the note is played with one hand — the right hand — the hand that holds the bow. The goal is to try to get a note to sound the same through the entire group. 

Many of us con­fuse the var­i­ous string instru­ments but Goldman’s lyri­cal descrip­tions of the instru­ments will stay with you for­ev­er. Gold­man writes; In size, the vio­lin is the small­est (at twen­ty-three inch­es, just slight­ly longer than the aver­age new­born) and then up the scale to the vio­la (twen­ty-sev­en inch­es, a baby at nine months), to the cel­lo (forty-eight inch­es, a pre­teen) to the dou­ble bass, (six­ty to sev­en­ty inch­es, a full-size adult). The string orches­tra is a fam­i­ly uni­fied by a sim­i­lar look, but each with dis­tinct hues and voices.” 

The birth­day con­cert” was filled with music from Bach to Car­lebach.” Gold­man played his cel­lo, accom­pa­nied by his son and his friend on the key­board. It sound­ed like a glo­ri­ous achieve­ment: As I pulled the bow across the strings, I could feel the soul’ of the cel­lo emerge and con­nect with my soul. For a minute I was tak­en back to my bar mitzvah….” 

You need not be a musi­cian or even a music lover to enjoy this book. It is a heart­warm­ing tale of how in all phas­es of life doors may open to bring us new sources of joy and achieve­ment. Illustrations.

Relat­ed Content:

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

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