Seek out recordings by the great instrumentalists of the past
I would tell myself to be much more aware and conversant with a greater range of art, architecture and literature. I was a very driven and insular young man. I did my schoolwork and it did well, and likewise my practising, but now I know that a greater awareness would have proven inspirational.
I’d tell myself to learn languages. I grew up in Texas and Spanish was prevalent, yet I only learnt a few words. I studied basic French at university, but it wasn’t until I lived in Paris that I really understood the benefit of speaking the language of a country. When I first moved to the city all I heard was a cacophony of sound, a babble. Yet a year later I could understand snippets of conversations – about people’s children or politics, for example. It opened up a much richer experience.
I’d also encourage myself to seek out recordings by the great instrumentalists of the past. I didn’t have access to many recordings as a young man, but when I did, at university and beyond, it opened my ears. It would have been so good to have had those recordings available to me as I initially explored the great cello repertoire.