Profile of Cellist Sarah Young
One cellist's journey into the indie-rock world allows her to have it all
Eleven years ago, Sarah Young stumbled upon a handwritten note stapled outside one of the classrooms at the University of Minnesota's music school that simply read: "Signed band seeking cellist." She thought, "Hey, that kind of sounds a little bit like me."
At the time, Young was playing cello in the University of Minnesota's campus orchestra for non-music majors; she had no aspirations to play professionally, but the nursing student did dream that she'd find a way to mix music, career, and a family.
And she's done just that.
Today, she's the cellist for Cloud Cult, an indie-rock band that delivers a strong green message while employing Young and violinist Shannon Frid to create a captivating ensemble sound. True to her dream, Young is also a working mother who brings her two young sons—Micah, 4, and Sam, 18 months—on the road.
"On our first tour with Cloud Cult, I was five months pregnant with Micah," Young recalls. "Playing cello while you're pregnant is actually really fun and beautiful and a nice thing for the babies, I think, too."
"It is busy," adds the cool and composed 32-year-old cellist, who travels with a nanny and her husband, Adrian, who manages the band. "The family doesn't prevent me from being able to do it, but it's really busy and the waxing and waning of how much time you can commit to cello as a mother is just as complicated, I think, as having a job."
Music has always been in her life. Young's mother was a huge proponent of stringed instruments; each of the family's five children began playing violin at a young age. Sarah played violin until third grade when, due to the overwhelming number of violin players in her elementary-school orchestra, some children were asked to switch to cello.
Her name was one of two drawn from a hat, and she fell in love with her new instrument.
Young continued to play cello through high school, but music presented a dilemma when she enrolled at the University of Minnesota. "I didn't really feel like giving up my cello just like that," she says, "but I also understood that there's no way I was actually going to be a cello performance major."
So she decided to major in nursing and played cello on the side in the campus orchestra—until she saw that fateful handwritten note while leaving orchestra practice. In time, she embarked on a dual career: performing with the band and becoming a registered pediatric nurse.
That was more than ten years ago.
These days, Cloud Cult tours nationally and last spring released its eighth album, Feel Good Ghosts, on the Earthology label. The band is dedicated to its green mission, using post-consumer recycled products, and offsetting through the purchase of carbon credits the energy the band uses when touring.
The band plans to release a feature-length DVD documentary this spring.
Like its environmentally conscious message, Cloud Cult's music is introspective. The music is composed almost entirely by the band's lead singer, Craig Minowa, but Young and violinist Frid have the creative freedom to help pen their own string parts.
Onstage, the two string players are a tight unit. "I don't feel like I'm up there alone and I appreciate having my acoustic sidekick," Young says. "It helps the music to just grow and become what it is."
Even though Young enjoys hitting the road with the band and her family, she notices that after a couple of weeks her playing begins to suffer. "I am always striving towards better technique and just spot-on intonation. It's always good to go back to my cello lessons and get grounded in the basics again."
Young is inspired to work diligently on her craft by her idol, fellow indie-rock cellist and singer Melora Creager of Rasputina. "I aspire to her talent and her gift and her ability to listen to two pitches at the same time," Young says.
"She's just incredible."
Meanwhile, Young is grateful for the professional opportunities touring with Cloud Cult has provided. "I just feel like I was given a gift or that I was in the right place at the right time and so somehow I slid into this situation and it grew into what it is today," she says. "I appreciate these years, I appreciate this journey, and I feel just honored to be a part of it."
Curious about Cloud Cult's sound and green message? Learn more about the band and listen to audio files at cloudcult.com.