How I Teach

My teaching philosophy stems from my work with David Soyer and Martita Casals (both protégés of Pablo Casals), Karen Tuttle (who observed Casals, Heifetz, Kreisler and other great natural players) and George Neikrug, the leading disciple of Dounis. I combine principles of musical character, phrasing, dynamic range, and instrumental color with an old-world sensibility that I also learned from the members of the Budapest and Guarneri Quartets and the Beaux Arts Trio. Ms. Tuttle worked with me on her school of physical releases, breathing and coordination of the body with musical character. Mr. Neikrug taught me invaluable details of physical motion and development of “soft” hands.

I work with students holistically—helping them to build practice regimens that include extensive scale and etude work, integration of physical releases and good posture, and discussion of musical character and how to relay those characters to their audience. We also build strategies for repertoire that will prepare them for their next stage of development or career. Regular performance is also emphasized; in studio class, string recitals at BU, and in recital.

Bach plays a critical role in my teaching: it embodies the vast majority of basic principles of phrasing, dynamic shaping, color, character, bow strokes, articulations and style that we encounter throughout the repertoire.

Practice technique is an important subject: learning how to practice is just as important as how long to work. The old Suzuki adage of “slow, well, often” is of great value—a standard I use is “5 times well” before moving on after an error. Accurate and comfortable repetition, combined with rigorous attention to intonation, solid rhythm, and beauty of tone, are cornerstones of my teaching.

I also place a great deal of emphasis on the student as a whole: the importance of physical conditioning, flexibility, and a quiet, focused mind. I highly recommend the practices of yoga and meditation as tools for cellistic success, along with regular physical conditioning, light weight work and stretches specific to playing.

See the Complete Cellist for more specific practice and warmup exercises.