It’s Never Too Late to Play the Cello

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“It’s Never Too Late” is a new drama that tells the stories of people who decide to follow their dreams.


In 1940, at the age of 12, Vera Jiji found her first passion: the cello. He learned to love playing the orchestral instrument at the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan. “I didn’t choose the cello. They gave it to me because I have a good ear and long fingers,” said the now 93-year-old Bronx native. It’s a beautiful instrument that can sound like a human voice. She looked like a woman’s body with hips, breasts and waist. Holding and playing him was a very intimate experience.”

However, he stopped playing instruments as an adult. He became a professor and fixture teaching English at Brooklyn College. He was married twice and had four children. The beloved cello, her mother’s high school graduation present, was sitting tucked away in the back of her wardrobe. It remained untouched, almost forgotten, for nearly 40 years. He picked up his cello again only after he retired at the age of 62.

“I rekindled the passion I always felt when I started playing again,” he said.. Since then, it has been like a second life.

Today, living with her 93-year-old husband in an Upper East Side mansion, Dr. Jiji can be found on 92nd Street Y most Fridays playing with fellow amateurs and friends in two bands, a trio and a string quartet. It’s also part of Y’s annual music performance. In 2007, he published his first book “Playing the Cello for Music Lovers”, which was sold in more than 20 countries on Amazon. (The interview below has been edited and shortened.)

What made you come back to music after all these years?

Brooklyn College provided me with fellowship and socialization with other teachers and students. I felt socially important. I lost it when I retired. I felt empty and needed to change this loss and community. I wanted to meet people in the neighborhood.

How did you feel about retiring?

I thought my life was over; it wasn’t. I had to find a different way. I thought about the path I took when I was little, the path I didn’t take because I was a wife, mother of four, and had a career. I thought about the road I hadn’t traveled – a road full of music – and realized that I had to take that road now. I couldn’t take both at the same time. What I got was my life. I went back to the fork and went the other way to see where it would take me.

How did you know where to start?

I’m half a block from 92nd Street Y. I went in and asked about the lessons; They gave a creative music lesson for people over 60 and told me to come right away. I thought I should get tested, but I didn’t. I was at the piano, sitting next to an instructor who said, “How do you play?” when someone came in with the cello. I couldn’t believe it. I asked if I could play it and I instantly fell in love with the instrument.

What did it feel like?

It’s like coming home. Everything came back and it was great. I felt like I was reconnecting with my best friend. I needed the opportunity to play music and have other musicians in my life. It was a return to a worthy passion.

What did you gain by returning to this passion?

Music is a perfect language; It’s like the conversation of people who never misunderstand each other and never get bored. When you play music with people, it’s a kind of friendship. Music is a world of pleasure. It gave me a way to communicate without using words. It gave me the next step in life.

What prompted you to write your book “Playing the Cello for Music Lovers”?

I’ve looked for other books to refer to and haven’t found anything useful. That’s why I decided to write one. As an English professor, I knew how to do it. I am good at voicing ideas, I can write things in a way that people can follow, and I am disciplined enough to sit down and write every day. I have made it a habit to stop at a certain point where I know what I want to say next. I never stopped when I was helpless. That way, I could continue the next day knowing I had direction and wouldn’t be overwhelmed. And I wanted to help others.

How do you feel about this stage in your life?

I am 93 years old. People misunderstand age: getting old doesn’t mean you can’t have something, you can get it. And getting older doesn’t get worse. I’m about to savor the moment. You should get up every morning and do something you love. This is how you proceed.

What is your best advice to those looking to make a change?

Don’t be afraid to get back to something you love. People say no to things too quickly. We’re not always best friends. Your passion or skills are still there. You will remember more than you think. All the information about the music I thought I had lost was part of my brain that didn’t speak to me until I touched it again.

What did you learn during this new action in your life?

I’ve learned that although I’m getting older, I can re-enter this wonderful world of music creation. And I found the community I lost again. Music gave me a new group of people. He supported me. He gave me a new home.

In this second act, what are you most proud of achieving?

Writing and publishing “Playing the Cello for Music Lovers”. I lived, I died; What have I given the world this book that surpasses me. When I’m gone, it will still be here and help people learn the cello.

What lesson can people learn from your experience?

Don’t say no to yourself.


We’re looking for people who decide it’s never too late to switch gears, change their lives, and pursue their dreams. Shall we talk to you or someone you know? Share your story Request.

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