Q. What should I know about the cello?
The cello is a great instrument with a beautiful sound and it’s amazingly versatile. It’s been around for 500 years and can be played in every kind of music, from classical to rock, to jazz, to anything else. It is available in smaller sizes for children and can be either acoustic or electric, although beginners normally learn on acoustic cellos.
Q. What do you think is the best thing about playing the cello?
Playing the cello is a tremendous experience and so is making music in general. To me it feels like a real privilege and a thrill. People don’t have to be at a professional level or be super-advanced to enjoy the same thrill, however. Playing music is enjoyable at every stage of the game. And of course, like all cellists, I just love the sound of the cello.
Q. Do students need to be able to read music before they start?
Not at all – but they will need to learn to read as they go along. It’s not hard. Reading music is logical and reasonably simple. It’s just a matter of time and practice.
Q. Can I learn the cello on my own without a teacher?
Why reinvent the wheel? The best way to learn an instrument is to study with the best possible teacher who is also a skilled player and knows the cello from the inside out. You will benefit from generations of cello-playing experience coming through your teacher to you. You won’t waste time trying to figure it all out by yourself and giving yourself bad habits that will stand in your way. Do it the easy way – get a good teacher!
Q. How hard is the cello?
It has its difficulties, but it’s not rocket science. Playing the cello in tune does depend on developing a good sense of pitch. If a student has a lot of trouble singing on pitch, they might find it easier to learn a fixed pitch instrument like the piano. Even so, if someone wants to play the cello, they can generally learn even if singing in tune isn’t all that easy for them.
Q. How much practicing does it take?
In the beginning, perhaps 15 or 20 minutes a day (with one day a week off.) As students become more advanced, they need to spend more time, usually a half hour to 45 minutes a day. Advanced students who want to play professionally can (and should) spend hours a day practicing, but that’s not necessary for the more casual student to become competent and proficient and have a good time with it.
Q. How are you different from other cello teachers?
Teachers have different approaches, but my basic outlook is that no one is born knowing how to play the cello, or how to practice, how to read music, or how to build up all the skills they need to enjoy playing the cello. I go to a lot of trouble to make sure my students understand and can do absolutely everything which will make them competent, confident and successful in playing the cello. I leave no stone unturned. My job as a cello teacher is to make sure that every student becomes comfortable playing the cello, both physically and intellectually. I want each student to feel well-informed, well-trained, treated with patience and respect so they can enjoy the cello for a lifetime.
Q. How long does it take to get good at the cello?
Well, after about a year a strong beginner can do a lot of fun things – play solos, play in a chamber group, play in an elementary orchestra with some confidence. After a couple years, an intermediate player can play a lot of great music of all types alone or with others. An advanced player can eventually do just about anything they want with the instrument. Someone who enjoys playing an instrument can improve and keep learning for the rest of their lives.
Q. If I’m interested in jazz cello, should I study with a jazz cello teacher?
Eventually, certainly! But to begin with, the best foundations for all types of cello playing are the standard acoustic classical techniques that every good cellist learns. Then those techniques – and others – are applied to a wide variety of styles of playing.
Q. What is your goal as a cello teacher?
My ultimate goal is to enable my students to express themselves musically through the cello with competence and joy. Learning to play the cello is a life-enriching experience and the benefits of lessons carry over into non-musical areas as well. Music students learn to solve problems, to work well with others, to listen, to be brave and to be disciplined. It should be no surprise to anyone that music students do so well in many different spheres of modern life.
Q. What is it like to be a student at your studio?
Do take a look at the testimonials from my students in Pennsylvania before my move (in June, 2015) to Chapel Hill! My former students and parents of students said a lot of nice things, but basically my hope is for everyone who comes to me, at whatever age or stage they might be, to succeed very well in learning to play the cello for their own musical fulfillment. I want students to feel that coming to lessons is interesting, encouraging, fun and productive.
Music is a social art, so I also want my students to get to know their fellow students and learn not only from me in their private lessons, but from a variety of experiences. Therefore, in addition to private lessons, I invite my students to participate in cello ensembles once a month during the school year. We rehearse a lot of fun music together and also listen to recordings, DVD’s, YouTube videos, discuss issues about cello playing, practicing and performing and occasionally have guest speakers.