The process of learning an instrument relies on the relationship between teacher and student. My job is to give the student the materials, information and feedback they need to progress. Success is possible when the student takes this information and consciously and explicitly puts it to use during daily practice. All practice should be done with a clear purpose and goal in mind. Since this is difficult for younger children, parents should be prepared to carefully observe lessons and practice with their children daily through about 10 years of age. Each lesson, scales and etudes are assigned, as well as repertoire, all of which combine to build technical mastery. An equally important component of practice is listening. Music is a language. Trying to learn it without having a clear aural picture of the sound you are trying to create makes the process much more difficult.

The ultimate goal is to develop the technical means and musical understanding necessary to create music on the cello with ease, joy and expression.

Videoing lessons
I have strong memories of taking lessons as a teenager and young adult and being sure I understood what was being asked of me. Upon arriving home, I often realized that the details were murky and I had trouble recreating the feel or sound of something I had worked on with my teacher. After beginning to video my lessons, I realized that I had not only lacked clarity but had completely missed important pieces of information.

For this reason, all lessons are digitally recorded by the student using their personal iPads or iPhones to make sure the information is accessible during the week. Watching the video allows the student to “retake” the lesson at a calmer moment and take notes about specific technical problems or musical ideas to be thought about during practice.

I also record all scales, etudes and pieces that are assigned during the lesson. Listening to these assigned components is an essential part of daily practice. Learning music without knowing what it sounds like is akin to learning a language without hearing it. The learning process is sped up exponentially when active listening is part of the daily practice routine.

Performance class
An important aspect of learning an instrument is performance. Performing is a skill learned through experience. The more opportunities to perform the more familiar and comfortable it gets. I arrange a Sunday morning class every 5 to 6 weeks so my students have the opportunity to perform their pieces with piano accompaniment. They hear repertoire they will be playing in the future and often hear pieces they can’t wait to get to. They also learn to listen critically and to offer support, encouragement and constructive criticism to their colleagues. Attending performance class is important to the young cellist’s progress and therefore is a required component of my cello studio regardless of whether or not the student is prepared to perform that week.