Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

July 13, 2014

Buckley musician's life shaped by strings

BUCKLEY — Michael Erwin serenades the corn with deep tonal slice that holds steady in the wind long after his bow is still.

Erwin’s back deck — his dog Abbie at his feet, the wind at his back and the sunshine on the pastoral Buckley countryside — is a great place to play out gratitude for his life, his love and his cello.

“I just look out here, and feel everything in myself unwind,” Erwin said. “When life kicks me, I sit down and play the cello. If I am sick, I play. They can take away my house, my car ... everything, but no one can take away the ability to play.”

It wasn’t always cello.

Erwin canoodled around with other instruments — the piano (his mom taught piano at the Interlochen Center for the Arts’ Summer Arts Camp). Clarinet almost took but dental issues (the reed pushed his kiddie teeth around) canceled the gig.

Erwin found cello — a larger member of the violin family with a sound and range considered closest to the human voice — at six years old, and he, now 48, has played almost every day since. That flicker of musical talent — given by nature and nurtured by his parents’ “blood, sweat and tears” — sculpted out his life’s path.

No, he did not like coming in to practice when the rest of his buddies played baseball outside.

“I took off down the street running,” Erwin recalled.

Now he is grateful for his parents’ enforced musical discipline.

Cello paid for his education, with full ride scholarships to University of Texas for undergrad and University of Michigan for a master’s degree.

Cello inspired a 20-year teaching career in Miami’s Dade County schools where he taught K-12 music and orchestra.

“Music gives so many of these kids an outlet to find the talent within themselves. Even if it isn’t music, it gives them an escape, and some space from the things that are happening in their lives.”

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