That’s not only a confusing title it’s seemingly something unlikely had you asked me a year ago — “Will you in the future play guitar with a cello teacher you meet for the first time at a 200 year old mission in Tucson?”

And today’s meeting with Laura Ritchie ought to have been an entry in the True Stories collection.

I first crossed paths online with Laura maybe in ds106 or phonar, but definitely in Connected Courses. in a short span she jumped in with blogging in her own domain and sharing some fabulous teaching and connecting as a music teacher at the University of Chichester. Her own tale of connecting with Jonathan Worth and eventually becoming part of his phonar class is its own amazing story that led to her showing up at Coventry with a truck load of cellos.

But even bigger is her #Musiquality project that brings not only her, but five of her students (who raised the funds for the travel) to the US where the join students of David Preston for a performance in Yosemite (and I am likely missing a big chunk of the story).

As it turns out, Laura’s Mom lives in southern Arizona, so she had a short stay here in my state and asked if I was able to meet up. It’s a 4 hour trip to Tucson from home, but timing worked well since I was in Phoenix Tuesday for a conference at Maricopa Community Colleges.

White Dove of The Desert
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I’m glad she nixed my idea for a place to meet; Laura’s mom suggested meeting at Mission San Xavier del bac south of Tucson. The mission was founded in 1562 by Father Kino, and the structure of “White Dove of the Desert” was started in the late 1700s (it’s described as the oldest in tact European structure in America (?)).

Regardless of the facts, it was a great place to meet for a few hours.

Laura at San Xavier
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As part of her own project, she asked to record her asking me a few questions on how I learned music. If I recall right, she’s building a collection for her students to appreciate the different goals and approaches to music learning that might be different from those working towards a performance career.

But she also wanted to play music together, so I had brought my guitar, she had her cello (what it takes to travel with that kind of instrument is impressive; her case does have skateboard wheels on it)

Something Going on Here?
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And we found a nice little courtyard on the east side of the building. Not knowing quite what t play, I suggested a simple chord progression. I honestly have little understanding of how cello playing works, and she described this free form “jamming” as something she does not frequently do, so we were both stretching.

2015/365/140 A Cellist from the UK in Arizona
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Here’s a bit of a recording, after the chords, there’s fragments of BB King, Peter Paul & Mary, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and more (or less). But the best part was when she played through one of the original pieces written for her that works with a computer visualization program.

She Makes it Look Easy....
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Can I keep using the “amazing” word for this experience? Thanks so much Laura (and your Mom) for the hours at the Mission (and a pretty yummy taco too). Follow what she does on this trip and beyond at

The post "Me Playing Guitar With a UK Cellist at a Mission in Tucson" was originally cracked open and scrambled from a rotten egg at CogDogBlog ( on May 20, 2015.


  • dkernohan

    What a thing to wake up to! This is awesome & promises great things for a jam in Vancouver.

  • Laura Ritchie

    Vancouver! Ah Dave!! Can I come too! ;)
    Alan you are awesome! I am burned like a lobster coloured fortune cookie! I loved listening to us – and to me muddle through. Super fun – I am so glad we got together. Thank you!

  • Leaving on a jet plane! #Musiqulity -

    […] Alan chose a chord progression and I played a simple bass line (truth be told I am not a confident improviser on the spot, and it takes me a while to be comfortable exploring around changes… and then I still have a very long way to go!). This will be the foundation for one of the collaborative musical somethings that we make on this trip. Hopefully there will be many layers, with different instruments and people building on what we started today. It was a privilege to bring Alan into that, even if it was in a very a small way. Alan captured the whole thing and posted it here. […]

  • Sandy Brown Jensen

    What a great story! So…you know…DS106!

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog

      It gets even more amazing. Just found out via email she is related to a colleague in Virginia I have known since the mid 1990s. TAKE THAT KEVIN BACON! SIX DEGREES OF COGDOG.

  • Kathy Lasecki

    What a true learning experience!! Joyful music,great conversation and real friendship!! Beautiful and haunting combination of guitar and cello!! Thanks!!!!!

  • A story of connection -

    […] of connection for an upcoming conference presentation he is giving… and here’s mine. (Alan, you’re in it!) It is yet another little glimpse into the #Musiqualiy story, and the stories […]

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