Thoughts on Teaching

I get great satisfaction from sharing all that I have learned, from over 30 years of teaching cello lessons and performing, with those who choose to come and study with me. I take my role as a mentor very seriously. I have the opportunity, through the trusting relationships developed with my students, to use the process of learning the cello as a metaphor for many of the challenges we all face in life. If I can help them to experience a sense of passion, joy and satisfaction with the cello, they will be able to find it in other parts of their lives. If I can help them feel successful, while being honest about their strengths and weaknesses, and encourage them to meet head on the aspects of the cello they find difficult, they can take this sense of strength and accomplishment with them throughout their lives.

While I believe all of us can learn to play the cello, not everyone has the desire to pursue music as a profession. So what is the advantage of having children study music? Here is a brief list of the skills and life lessons one learns:

  • how to take a huge, seemingly impossible task and break it down into manageable pieces
  • the habit and discipline of working on a task day after day whether we feel like it or not
  • the ability to work through frustration
  • the ability to carry out an extremely complex task with many components
  • how to be cool in stressful situations
  • learning that our reaction to life is purely subjective
  • learning that a performance is only a moment in time: if the performance is brilliant it doesn’t mean we are done and if is mediocre, it doesn’t mean we are a failure
  • learning that when we make a mistake (and life is full of them) it’s not the end of the world: our mothers still love us and we are still good people and good cellists
  • learning to take responsibility for our actions and choices

I believe that the study of music is an essential and invaluable piece of a broad and high quality education. Children emerge smarter, stronger, more creative and more expressive because of it.

For adults it is often a letting go, allowing themselves to be beginners and enjoy the process of learning something new. It is also important that they learn to be kind, accepting and supportive of themselves rather than being demanding and demeaning.

Here are some ideas about Practicing and Artistry that I like to share:

“It is better to practice one hour a day, but every day, than to make a great spasmodic effort and then stop.”
— Ernest Bloch, composer

“Sit down and start whether you like it or not.”
— Gordon Epperson, cellist

“One should never make any music, not even sound one musical note, without a musical intention preceding it.”
– Artur Schnabel, pianist

“Between every effort in your playing and during every pause, deliberately return to a state of relaxation and softness in all your joints.”
– Yehudi Menuhin, violinist

“One must practice slowly, then more slowly, and finally, really slowly.”
– Camille Saint-Saens, composer

”Three minutes spent thinking about your practicing before you start are worth three hours spent in aimless repetition.”
– Robert Gerle, recording artist