A Cello Story

As long-time—and much-loved—cellist Nikki Patton and her husband Mark Patton, retired head of Natural Resources for the Town of Falmouth, were making the difficult decision to leave Falmouth to embark on “a new adventure” in Georgia, Allison Strickland and her husband Matthew were contemplating a similarly complicated move from Oak Park, Illinois, to Falmouth.

Soon their paths would cross, in the most delightful way, finding a connection that would reassure both couples that they were doing the right thing.

Cellists Allison Strickland and Nikki Patton

After 28 years in Falmouth, Nikki is emotional about leaving. “I feel I was given a great gift from this community,” she said. In addition to teaching a generation of aspiring cellists from preschoolers to senior citizens in her Chappaquoit Cello Studio, Nikki managed Johnson String Instrument’s Falmouth shop for seven years. There she sold and rented violins, violas, and cellos, sold sheet music, strings, and other equipment and accessories, and encouraged musicians of all ages and abilities.

Equally rewarding for Nikki was the opportunity to bring talented musicians like Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled to perform in the warm and intimate environment of the shop. Now an internationally renowned cellist, Peled was selected by Pablo Casals’s wife to play his 1733 Matteo Goffriller cello after the legendary cellist died.

There were many other concerts in the small shop, one of Nikki’s ways of sharing her love of music, especially cello music, with her students, friends, and the community.

Nikki Patton leads her students in a cello recital, November 2019

Nikki particularly valued her collaborations with Boston Conservatory cellist Rhonda Rider, who, Nikki said, “has a real drive for contemporary music.” Nikki invited Rider’s graduate student cello ensemble BoCoCelli to Woods Hole nearly every year to perform and included her own students in grand performances involving up to 38 cellists.

Nikki Patton with the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra (photo by Doreen Sykes)

Nikki also enjoyed the challenges of playing demanding music with the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, sometimes alongside one of her advanced students.

“It’s heartbreaking to leave all of this, my students, our friends, the people who make Falmouth such a wonderful community,” said Nikki, “but we will be back—at least twice a year—to visit.”

Those visits will take place as the Pattons travel between their summer and winter homes. They have a cabin in New Hampshire, near the Canadian border, where they have been spending the summers for many years. They will continue to do so after their move to Georgia.

Both the cabin in New Hampshire and their new rustic-modern home in northern Georgia near the Chattahoochee National Forest, are in or near wilderness areas, where Nikki and Mark can easily indulge in trail walking with their two eager dogs, one of their favorite activities. Both homes also provide breath-taking views of the natural areas surrounding them.

The Pattons chose Georgia for its magnificent natural environment and to provide respite from New England winters, but a realtor, whom they had met two years earlier, chose their house for them. She called the Pattons before the house was even officially on the market and convinced the couple to “pack the dogs in the car and drive down immediately to see it.”

They did, driving two days straight in the pouring rain. The trip was worth it. They fell in love with the house as soon as they saw it.

Meanwhile, Allison and Matthew, who had come to West Falmouth to help Matthew’s mother care for his father, were considering making the move from Oak Park, where Allison’s family lived, to Falmouth. They knew the town, having spent many summers here. Their realtor brought them to the Patton’s home. Their young children raced into the backyard and declared, “we want this house!”

Inside, Allison and Matthew were amazed to see Nikki and Mark’s collection of artworks from the South Pacific, which they picked up during their wedding trip to the Solomon Islands. The Stricklands had a similar collection from her time in the Peace Corps, where she had taught middle school in Vanuatu—where the Pattons had stopped to change planes. They immediately felt at home.

That was the deciding factor for the Pattons, knowing that Allision, Matthew, and their children would love their West Falmouth home as much as they did. “It made us feel so good to see the passion of this young couple carrying on what we started with so much love,” said Nikki.

And, of course the cello connected the two families. Allison is a cellist, and a Suzuki cello teacher, just like Nikki. She will fill the house with cello music, cello students, and cello music lovers, just like Nikki did.

It just couldn’t have turned out any better for the two families and for the community. “There are only a few hundred certified Suzuki cello teachers in the country,” said Allison. “This is such an extraordinary coincidence that we are moving into Falmouth just as Nikki is leaving—and actually moving into their house, with its lovely cello studio.”

While many cello teachers use Suzuki materials, few are formally trained in the method.

“There were no Suzuki cello teachers on Cape Cod when I arrived here 28 years ago,” said Nikki.

Allison Strickland

“It’s an excellent method,” said Allison, who learned cello as a child following the Suzuki method. “The Suzuki philosophy is that talent isn’t inborn, but an ability that can be developed in the right environment. By creating community, we build that environment. And that’s what keeps students learning, motivates them, and gives them a clear path to achieving their goals.

“I love watching my students learn and grow.  The cello becomes another way for them to express themselves and an outlet for their feelings and emotions. Teaching is as much about building character as about building talent,” she said.

Nikki’s path to becoming a cellist was different. “The cello guided me,” she said. “I didn’t know what a cello was until I was in college, studying classical guitar. For six weeks I had the same dream every night, that I was playing the cello. Finally, I decided to give the cello a try and it has been such an important part of my life ever since.”

Nikki will continue to teach cello in Georgia on a limited basis, one day a week over Zoom. She wants to spend time working on Gaspar Cassadó’s Solo Suite for Cello and is “committed to owning all six Bach Cello Suites.”

Allison’s cello dream is to perfect her playing of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto.  She is excited about the possibilities for teaching and performing in Falmouth and the Cape. While it was hard for her to leave her studio in Chicago and her participation in the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest behind, she is looking forward to playing in chamber music groups and an orchestra on the Cape. “I feel like all the stars were aligned for this to happen,” she said.

Nikki and Mark concur. “This is it,” Mark said. “The house is telling us we did a great job and now it is time to pass it on to Allison and Matthew, who will carry on and make it their own.”

Allision Strickland is accepting new cello students. For more information, visit her website at allisonmurphystrickland.com or email her at murphy.allison@yahoo.com.

Nikki Patton may be reached through her website ChappaquoitCelloStudio.com or by email at skybarr8@aol.com.

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