Sometime last year, I put out a call for people to send me their pet photos, anecdotes, and videos, and our Cello Museum family came through in spades.
I wanted to find out what animal-related treasures are at UNCG and contacted Stacey Krim, Curator of Manuscripts & Cello Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She promptly sent fabulous materials and allowed me to spend a couple of very happy afternoons going through the Janos Starker collection photo albums, where I found even more.
News and social media have also provided many photos and videos.
What started as a short article about cellists and animals, particularly cellists and their pets, grew into a mammoth undertaking. (Actually, there were no mammoths – but there were elephants!) So I’ve split the topic of cellists and animals into a multi-part series and decided to start with some of cellists’ best friends – dogs.
I hope you enjoy looking at these cute doggos as much as I have.
Cello Museum Family Dogs
Let’s start with the wonderful photos sent in by our Cello Museum family.
Cellist Fedor Medina’s Gorgeous Saluki: Hyrkanya Liu
Cellist Fedor Medina wrote from Majorque, Spain, with these lovely photos of his Hyrkanya Liu, who is named after a character in Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. He tells us:
“I am the proud owner of the most beautiful female Saluki, [who is] eight and a half years old and a real fan of both symphonic and chamber music, as well as opera. She’s been to both rehearsals and concerts! . . . I used to go every single week to dress rehearsals with Liu. The whole orchestra, as well as guest conductors and soloists were fond of her and happy to see her at the hall.”
Cellist Sarah Freiberg’s Adorable Puggle: Lilly
Cello Museum friend, the wonderful baroque cellist Sarah Freiberg, sent the sweet photos above along with this note about the lovely Lilly:
Lilly the Puggle attends all my cello lessons. We’ve found it best if we place her bed so she can see both me and my student—and then she can snooze for hours. (Sometimes she’s been known to curl up in soft cello cases.) Only once did she jump up on [a student] between [her] and her cello, and that was shortly after Lilly joined our household 5 years ago (and she LOVED that student!)
Lilly doesn’t seem to care much about cello sounds—she has jumped up on a clarinetist when he began to warm up at my house. She’s been indifferent to all the other instruments that have cycled through. BUT then, one day, a student brought along his oboe-playing brother for a duet. Lilly sat between them, lifted her head, and howled along. And she had a LOT to say. I guess oboe is her instrument of choice. Who knew? But gut strings—that is another story. I often have the violone player for the Handel and Haydn Society stay here, and once she made a costly mistake by changing strings and leaving a pure gut string on the floor. Lilly thought it was hers for the eating. She doesn’t try to eat the strings that are ON instruments, thank goodness!
She also told us of another cello-loving dog she met during her career:
MANY years ago, I was preparing for a quartet competition in the Midwest, my quartet stayed with a generous family, complete with furry golden retriever. Whenever we rehearsed, that dog wrapped itself around my cello’s end pin, and stayed until the last note.
Cellist Jennifer Kloetzel’s Canine Friends
Our Cello Museum friend, soloist, recording artist, and professor, Jennifer Kloetzel, is another great animal lover. She responded to our call with beautiful photos, including the two above. She tells us that these gorgeous dogs are:
My nephew’s dog, Hank. I call him “Hanky Panky.” He was just a little puppy then. He’s grown a lot!
My neighbor’s puppy – it was so sweet and fluffy!!
Cellist Debbie Davis and the Sweet Gio
Another Cello Museum family member – the wonderful Debbie Davis, cellist, teacher, and fearless leader of the North Carolina Cello Society – is also an animal lover. Here she is with her sweet dog, Gio. In the shadows is cellist Nancy Green, too!
Recording Artist Nancy Green Loves Animals!
Cello Museum family member – and esteemed Cello Guild instructor! – recording artist Nancy Green is a lifelong animal lover. Here she is in 1963 with her dog, Freckles.
Cello Museum Team Member Erica Lessie and Maxine
Cellists and Dogs on Social Media
Cellist Amit Peled and His Dog, Ruby
Amit Peled posted on Facebook that his cello has a canine sibling called Ruby. He said:
A new cello sibling to ‘SHOKO’ – my 1695 Grancino is ‘Ruby’ – a gorgeous C. Becker 1931 cello. So similar in color and characters to our dog Ruby. Welcome to the family.
In a photo shoot, Ruby jumped into the shot, and his wife, Julia Tomek, came to help. The result is the gorgeous family photo you see above. Amit’s original caption was
When one’s dog jumps into one’s photo session and one’s wife tries to stop her…
Amit told the Cello Museum:
“We absolutely LOVE her. My first dog ever and I really never knew how much unconditional love one can have and GET from a dog…”
A New “Dog Bed”
Here is a lovely photo from the Instagram feed of Italian singer-songwriter, Erica Boschiero. Does anyone else have a dog who likes to sleep in cello cases?
View this post on Instagram
Cellist Steven Isserlis Remembers Dandy
I found this lovely tribute to a Dandie Dinmont Terrier called Dandy from the fabulous Steven Isserlis. Eating one’s school picture = true love.
Thinking about my beloved Dandie Dinmont Terrier – imaginatively named ‘Dandy’ – faithful companion of my childhood. I was remembering the time when my school photo arrived. By the time I got back from school later that day, Dandy had got hold of it, and chewed on one face – mine pic.twitter.com/ooTHmDSxsk
— Steven Isserlis (@StevenIsserlis) October 27, 2018
Cellists and Their Dogs on YouTube
As anyone can find from a quick search, there are many videos of cellists with dogs online. I selected a few for your enjoyment. Did I leave out your favorite? If so, please share a link in the comments.
Lullaby, Close Your Eyes
This adorable pup enjoys a bit of Brahms, very helpfully sitting sleepily between the cellist and her cello.
Another gorgeous and somewhat sleepy dog appears in this Christmas video by Eileen Zhang.
Bodzio the Singing Basset Hound
Not one to sit sleepily or even quietly on the sidelines, this cute Basset Hound called Bodzio accompanies a cellist’s practice time – or is it the cellist accompanying Bodzio?
Vivaldi for His Dog
This young cellist, “Ted Cello” on YouTube, plays Vivaldi (Largo from Sonata No. 3 in a minor, RV 43), during the pandemic (in October 2020) for his beloved dog, Tiful. He reminds us that:
we don’t know how much time he has left . . . everyone please cherish all of your loved ones because you never know how long you both have.
Patrick Dexter and His Dog Nisha
Lots of you have asked about my dog Nisha, she is a rescue dog from the Mayo SPCA. She was found badly wounded with gashes a broken leg. She came into my family and enriched all our lives. Today I have released a song about her, available wherever you get your music 🐾❤️ pic.twitter.com/Y2rLMkovCb
— Patrick Dexter (@patrickdextervc) March 25, 2022
Cuteness Overload: Hauser with Dachsunds in Personal Flotation Devices
Hauser fans – here’s one for you. Cellist Hauser appears to be a real animal lover, playing with these adorable Dachsunds in their bright yellow personal flotation devices. Unfortunately, no cellos appear in this video, but it still made me say, “Awww!”
Cellists, Publicity, and Cute Dogs!
Following in the footsteps of HMV, I’ve seen cellists use cute dogs in their publicity materials. Here are two examples. The first is cellist Benjamin Lash. Here is a photo of him playing next to an adorable dog on his website.
Our second example is from an email sent by cellist Marcie Brown, aka the “Cello Guru.” Her sweet dog, Biscuit, often appears in her publicity materials.
Here is another sweet picture of Biscuit from Marcie’s Facebook feed. Go Biscuit!
Music for the Dogs
People are not the only ones affected by music. As many dog owners know, their canine family members react to music in a variety of ways. For example, on a trip to visit my very first music teacher (after my father), when we were playing a few cello and piano works together for old-time’s sake, her grand-dog, Jasper, who had been acting like a little wildman, calmed right down. To this day, she plays cello music for Jasper to help him calm down.
The only work prominently featuring the cello on their list is “The Swan.” What other works would you have included? I remember from my visit that Jasper enjoyed Fauré’s Sicilienne.
Want some music specifically curated for your dog? Here are three YouTube channels dedicated to music for dogs:
Newsworthy – Dogs and Cellists in the News
A Dog’s Tale at Crufts
At the 2018 Crufts international dog competition in Birmingham, UK, the Nero String Orchestra performed a specially commissioned work, A Dog’s Tale, as part of a study on the impact of music on the emotions of dogs. The performance
“prompted a yappy dachshund into lying down, and a boisterous cockapoodle to turn around and lovingly paw its owner. Even a Bedlington terrier that had been sizing up a smaller dog entered into a detente.” – Fariha Karim, “Crufts orchestra has dogs in rhapsodies,” 10 March 2018, The Times.
Cellist Plays For Pups
Cellist Cheryl Wallace made the news a few years ago by playing for dogs at her local shelter in Papillon, Nebraska, USA. She had heard that music could calm shelter dogs. So she wore concert black and played “low and slow (like Italian cooking)” for the pups. The previously rowdy dogs calmed down and began to fall asleep after only a few minutes of her playing. This is her way of making a contribution.
She hopes others will follow her example. Please let us know if you decide to play at your local shelter and tell us about your experience.
Faithful Companion During the Lockdown: Cellist Sarah Butcher’s Lockdown Diary
During the pandemic lockdown in the UK, London Mozart Players cellist Sarah Butcher shared her lockdown diary, which included a substantial amount of dog walking. It’s so wonderful to be back to playing with people now, isn’t it? But Sarah’s diary entries are proof of how much comfort our furry friends provide when times are hard. Read the full story here.
Cellist Martha Gerschefski and Her Pocket Pup
I’m thrilled to be able to include a news clipping of my most technically rigorous cello teacher, cellist Martha Gerschefski and her dog. Martha donated her papers to the phenomenal Cello Collections at UNC Greensboro. Although the collection had just arrived when I visited UNCG to work on this series, the amazing Stacey Krim discovered this little clipping among the vast number of papers. Thank you, Stacey!
When she went on concert tours, Martha traveled with her Chihuahua, Tiny Inie:
“I travel a lot and this way I’m not alone.” – Martha Gerschefski
Umberto Clerici’s Dog Enjoyed Concerts During the Pandemic
In August 2020, cellist Umberto Clerici was featured by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) playing the cello for his Bernese Mountain dog, fittingly called Pablo. Clerici said:
“Pablo has provided the socialisation and company our family has missed during this time. He almost looks like a bear, but he is still a puppy. He has very clear musical taste! He barks and sings along with music on the TV and he loves the vibrations of the cello. He lies down at the bottom of the cello and just sleeps. He’s very interested!”
Here he plays the Fantasia from George Crumb’s Sonata for Solo Cello No. 1 for Pablo:
Yo-Yo Ma Saves the Day (& Helps David Zinman Find His Puppy)
Yo-Yo Ma helped a friend find his lost puppy. After a performance at Tanglewood in August 2017, the world-famous soloist gave his audience of almost 14,000 concertgoers a mission: help find conductor David Zinman’s lost four-month-old Havanese puppy, Carlito.
Mission accepted. The audience members searched and spread the word in Lenox. Everyone wanted to help find the pup before it could be hit by a car or eaten by a coyote.
Grace Ellrodt, who didn’t attend the concert, heard about lost Carlito from a concertgoer and found the puppy in the road alive and well.
Cellists from the Past Loved Dogs, Too
One of the treasures Stacey Krimm at UNC-G brought to my attention was an Ennio Bolognini photo album containing lovely photos of his dog, Gipsy. Bolognini was a fascinating man. As a cellist, he was described by Pau Casals as “the greatest cello talent I ever heard in my life.” But he was also a composer, conductor, pilot, and professional boxer.
You can flip through a digital copy of this photo album here.
I also spent several happy hours going through Janos Starker materials at UNCG for this series. Stacey Krim suggested I look in some of his photo albums, and she was exactly right. Over the years, Starker had several dogs called Baron and several others named Pudgie. I’m not sure which Baron is which (Baron I, Baron II, etc.), but here are three of the best Baron photos I found.
This is a photo of one of the dogs called Pudgie with the great man himself. I’m not sure this is Pudgie, so if you have more information, please let me know!
Russian cellist, conductor, and pianist, Mstislav Rostropovich, was another famous dog lover. There are many photos of him with dogs. What’s your favorite? Here are two of mine.
In this first one, I love the contrast between the dog’s size and Rostropovich’s stature. Rostropovich was a big man. When he performed in my hometown in the 1980s, Duke University didn’t have a cello platform big enough for him, and mine was much too small – so my father built him one. After the concert, when my father and I met him, Rostropovich gave my father a big hug in thanks.
Although cellist Beatrice Harrison is more often remembered for her association with nightingales, she was a great dog lover. Here is a photo of her with one of her dog friends. It appears to be the same one in the BBC video that follows.
I decided to close this article one of the most famous cellists of our time, Pau Casals. Here is a lovely image posted on Twitter by cellist Janet Horvath (whose papers are also at UNCG!).
— Janet Horvath (@playinglesshurt) July 17, 2022
Here is another source sent to me by Stacey Krim – a video of Casals playing with his dog, Follet. Enjoy!
A very special thank you to Stacey Krim, Curator of Manuscripts & Cello Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, for her patience and help with this article and the entire series! Special thanks also to all of the fantastic cellists who sent photos for this article (and the whole series). Please watch for further installments with other animals, including cats, birds, and elephants.
Do you have any more photos, videos, and/or stories of dogs – or other animals – and cellos to add? If so, please get in touch.