John Holt (How Children Fail) is always full of surprises. Now it turns out that, even while writing those controversial books on education, Holt's real love has been music--a late-blooming love, with only some concert-going and a few flute lessons till his forties, when he took up the cello in earnest. Here he first chronicles his very mild, pre-cello musical life as an outsider to the ""mysteries"" of music (turned down by the college glee club, turned on by Woody Herman and Stravinsky); then he plunges into the detailed ecstasies and traumas of the serious amateur: fear of wrong notes; fear of playing with others; finding enough time and the right place to practice; striking the balance between learning by oneself or with a teacher; learning to ""trust my hands."" No one familiar with Holt's previous books will be surprised at the conclusions he comes to about music education: forced exposure to music at an early age ""would probably have turned me away from music, as it has so many others""; a good teacher is one who, notwithstanding other results, instills love of music; discovering things for oneself is better--and more exciting (lots of giddy exclamation points here)--than being taught them. But Holt is far too casual about using his own very unusual case as a basis for generalization, especially since he has apparently embraced his cello to the point of obsession (""Friendship, another important part of my life, also has to give way"" to the cello). And his characterization of his cello-playing as a political act (an example of ""deinstitutionalizing people and society"") seems more than a trifle forced. A great gust of encouragement to adults thinking of taking up an instrument; as a think-piece on music education--provocative and sincere, but a good deal less convincing.