I had the supreme privilege of growing up in one of the worst anti-Semitic countries in the world under one of the most anti-Semitic regimes in recorded history: Communist Russia. Most of my childhood memories associated with those privileges are not very pleasant; but some things were so illogical as to border on the bizarrely hilarious. This is one of them.
Like any Jewish parents worth their salt, so to speak, my parents wanted to give their children, especially girls, musical education. In the high hopes of that happening, a piano was purchased when yours truly (an oldest child) reached the age of five. As a side note, a memo to all the parents out there – I am all for broadening your child’s horizons and giving him or her music lessons; but, unless there are prodigies on the scale of Mozart, signing up a five-year old for serious music lessons is a serious waste of your time and money. But hey, according to one of my psych professors, every parent by default experiments on the first child – due to the lack of experience. So, my poor parents learned their lesson after few months, and the piano was relegated to the status of just plain big piece of furniture for the time being.
Fast forward a few years; I think at that time the hopes for my brother to become a musician were dashed, but in my case they were still strong; plus, my younger sister was about to be engaged as well. This time, because there were two of us, hiring a tutor was not feasible, and our parents decided to enroll us in the music school. So, our poor Mom was forced to haul us from one school to another to another to another – only to be told, again and again, that her daughters have very little or no talent what so ever and will not be enrolled.
That statement may be true in my case (my musical talents are rather mediocre); but in the case of my sister it was nothing more than a bold-faced lie. Beloved Sibling is graced by The Heavenly Father with many talents, and being a great musician is one of them. So, what gave? Well, apparently, the latest directive in Moscow at that time was not to enroll “blackies”, especially of the dreaded Jewish variety ones, in the music schools, especially – GASP – in the capital.
Finally, a music school was found outside of the city boundaries (at that point we did live on the outskirts), and they were more than glad to take us (even me with my mediocre abilities). However, due the unfortunate circumstances of us wasting all this time inside the city boundaries, all the piano classes were full. Our Mom was given a choice of enrolling one daughter in the violin group and another one for the cello. My memories are hazy as to why precisely we ended up with what we ended up (I think it was due to size), but in the end, my sis went for the violin lessons and I went for the cello ones.
And so it came to pass that, due to the bizarre idiocies of the Russian comrades, we both ended up learning how to play not just one (because eventually both of us took piano lessons), but two musical instruments.