A musical family in Indianapolis has 3 children who play the cello

The 317 Project tells stories of life in all of Indianapolis’ bustling neighborhoods – 317 words at a time.

Sometimes a parent’s desires and a child’s desires collide.

Sarah Clayton, mother of three, wants her daughters to learn to play the cello.

Not just because she grew up playing music, or because her husband did too, but because she hopes her daughters “learn how to get over something that’s hard.”

“It’s a skill,” Sarah said, “they’ll use later in the future.”

But life lessons and skill development are sometimes lost on five-year-olds. This is the age of Sarah’s youngest daughter, Anya, who, when asked why she plays, answers truthfully, “Because mom makes me.”

Ask Anya what she likes to do, and she’ll simply and eagerly explain: “Playing.”

She says this, not referring to the cello but to its many stuffed animals.

One Thursday evening in the music room of the United Methodist Church on Broadway, Anya sat between her mother, holding a cello, and Sarah Binford, the music teacher who was there to teach them. Her two older sisters, 8 and 10, had just finished.

Zola Clayton, 8 (middle) plays cello with Sarah Clayton (left) and Krystle Ford on Saturday, July 23, 2022 at Broadway Methodist Church in Indianapolis.  The Claytons are a family of musicians.  Paul and Sarah Clayton and their three daughters all play an instrument.

The semi-private lesson was offered by the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, a program where parents are expected to learn and play alongside their children.

Binford started by asking Anya to identify the musical notes. Anya responded more badly than good, which seemed to shorten the five-year-old’s attention span.

Pulling on the cello strings with her fingers, Anya paused to ask Binford a question.

“I love chocolate milk,” Anya said. “Do you?”

“Yes,” Binford answered.

“How about the vanilla,” Anya added. “Do you like cotton candy?”

Sarah wanted Anya to concentrate. Anya had other interests.

Anya Clayton, 5, watches her mother as Krystle Ford (left) and Anya's mother, Sarah Clayton, grooms her for a new cello on Saturday, July 23, 2022 at Broadway Methodist Church in Indianapolis.  The Claytons are a family of musicians.  Paul and Sarah Clayton and their three daughters all play an instrument.

Binford had a solution. She took Anya’s right hand in hers and guided Anya’s bow along the strings. A familiar tune followed: Old MacDonald.

Binford then released Anya’s hand as she continued on her own. Sara smiles.

Towards the end of the lesson, Anya stood up and bowed.

Sometimes a parent’s desires and a child’s desires collide.

And sometimes they converge.

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Contact IndyStar reporter Brandon Drenon at 317-517-3340 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonDrenon.

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