We live in a music world, which – now more than ever – is changing and evolving rapidly. Nowadays, aiming for just a secure orchestra or teaching position is too narrow of a vision. Although it is valuable to strive for these jobs, it is necessary to develop diverse skills that set one apart from others and help students find their unique place in the music world. It is my responsibility as a teacher to guide students during this crucial identification process.
My overall goal is to provide my students with the tools to become independent. Consequently they need to be their own best teacher, manager, and advocate, so that ultimately they are self-dependent and keep improving without the constant guidance of a teacher. To become their own teacher, students need a strong foundation of core techniques and the development of good practicing strategies resulting in a high level of cello playing. Good technique can be developed through scales, arpeggios, double stops, different etudes such as Popper, Piatti, Grützmacher, and Duport, and exercise books including Feuillard, Cossmann, and Starker. Those exercises are most effective if practiced correctly and if their value is understood by the student. This is in direct correlation with understanding technical concepts and practicing strategies. In the beginning of their studies, I will familiarize every student with fundamental aspects of my technical approaches. Since every individual has different body proportions, it varies slightly from cellist to cellist, but the general concepts are the same. Once this is understood, I will be able to relate every technical aspect of cello playing back to these ideas. Consequently the understanding of these concepts will deepen throughout their degree. Practicing strategies will be taught in order to solve technical problems. In the end the students will have the tools to address any difficult passage or technical problem themselves and eventually will be able to convey their knowledge to their own students.
Training the ear is a substantial part of my teaching. Many issues of intonation, sound production, and unintentional musical elements in playing are the result of a lack of accurate listening. Often musicians have an idea of what they want a piece or phrase to sound like in their mind, neglecting their actual sound while playing. Through focused practicing in lessons, practicing advice, and patience throughout the process I will help my students to connect their musical vision with specific left and right hand techniques so that eventually they will be able achieve the sound that they desire.
All this ‘training’ serves one main purpose: to provide the tools for making music. Understanding cello technique enables cellists to make musical decisions unrestricted by the body. Music interpretation is something very personal. Nevertheless, it cannot be taken out of context. Musical decisions have to be well justified. Consequently, music research, performance practice, and passed on traditions have to be taken into account. Since the students eventually have to be able to justify their own choices, I will supervise their research on performed repertoire and ask them to provide detailed program notes about pieces that they are performing to the other cellists. Throughout a their degree, every student will collect an array of useful program notes for future performances. At the same time they learn how to conduct good and proper research and provide sources for all the students. Through presenting their findings in class the students will also learn how to speak in front of an audience and how to convey their interpretational choices aurally.
Physical health during cello playing is a major concern in my teaching, which is why I stress the proper bodily involvement so much. Equally important is the mental health of the students. Musicians have to cope with a large amount of pressure and deal with increasingly tough competition. Developing a healthy relationship to competition and music making is essential for a fulfilled life as a musician. I want my students to work hard on their development, but at the same time live according to Tracy McMillan’s quote “Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out yet, it’s not the end”. I will teach how to cope with performance anxiety through mental training and exercises, which will also increase the self confidence and self esteem, so that each student can become their own advocate.
The studio dynamic I will create is the one of a supportive family. Students with the same pieces will help each other practice and more experienced students will occasionally teach the less experienced ones. Through the supervision of this process I will be able to oversee their process of becoming a teacher. I will also help my students to organize and advertise local concerts in institutions like retirement homes, hospitals and other establishments; consequently places where the people are not able to go to concerts. This way the students and I can give something back to the community and at the same time learn how to manage their own career on a small scale.
Studying the cello will help my students to grasp a deeper understanding of themselves, their emotions, their relationship to music, and their purpose in life, which is my ultimate goal as a teacher.