11. May 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: Read Online

Although I haven’t a clue if he can make an oboe reed, so there’s that. ;-)

“I could be anybody,” he said. “The cello allowed me to enact and embody the different variations that I was becoming.”

His father, a Teamsters union organizer, instilled in his son the moxy to fight against socio-economic and racial inequities. “If something concerned me in high school, I would start a petition,” he said.

But his parents’ fears that academia would wrench their son from his humble roots meant they kept him from enrolling in honors courses and taking his SAT exams, Benavidez said.

In spite of these hurdles, Benavidez excelled, winning essay competitions and other accolades. But he was not a quiet, nose-in-a-book child. In fact, he was so rambunctious on the school bus one day that the driver ordered him off, with his cello, in an isolated area near Highway 99. “It’s just me and you,” Benavidez told his cello as they set off for the long journey home.

At 17, he applied to UC Berkeley, submitting everything but his SAT scores, which he could not provide because he had not taken the exam. At the time, his parents had not seen the point in him taking the exam, and so had not taken him to the testing site.

By the time a letter from UC Berkeley arrived accepting him on condition that he complete 60 community college units, Benavidez had left home, dropped out of high school and moved to Sacramento, where he supported himself by working in a music store and teaching cello.

After eking out a living, he auditioned informally for the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra. His distinctive talent earned him the position of principal cellist and he went on to perform at such prestigious venues as The Sorbonne in Paris and the Esterhazy Palace in Austria.

Despite the prestige, travel and opportunity to perfect his art, it was a period of intense solitude and introspection for Benavidez: “I was giving so much of myself to the music. I wanted to retreat,” he said.

At times, he tried leaving his cello in the unlocked trunk of his car, or in the lobby of his apartment building, hoping someone would steal it. But no one ever did.

Do read the whole thing!

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