Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Five hours a day?

I had the opportunity on Sunday to attend a masterclass with award-winning cellist Arnold Choi and his (on loan) $11,000,000 "Bonjour" Stradivarius cello.  The students ranged from age 9 to about 15, so much of his teaching was in the range of what I teach.  He had some similar ideas that I had regarding how to address the students' playing (nice to get that reinforcement) and I got some new ideas from him, too.  Even a few tips I can use myself in my own playing!

He also did a short Q & A session afterwards.  One question was regarding his comments to a 12 year old student who didn't have his piece memorized.  The student explained, "I've only had it for three weeks."  Arnold's reaction to that was, "Three weeks is a lifetime!"  That was news to most of us in the audience, so someone asked about that.  For Arnold, at that age he would learn the notes to a piece in one week, and of course work longer to refine it.  But he was practicing five hours a day from the time he was five years old, and this student was usually practicing one hour a day. 

So another comment from the audience about how self-motivated he must have been to practice five hours a day.  "Oh no!  My parents MADE me!  I wanted to be outside playing!"  And he added how thankful he is for that now.  He said the ages 5 - 12 are the golden years for learning to play.  All those hours of practice then make all the difference for him now.  Some of his peers didn't begin until they were 8 or 11, and they now have to work much harder than he does.

Does one HAVE to practice five hours a day at five years old to be a professional cellist?  No, but it helps!  It would take very dedicated and probably creative parents to undertake such a venture.  When older, yes, five hours would probably be recommended.  I have heard that one should not practice more than five hours a day, or it becomes counter-productive.  No worries on that happening here....

Here is a short video regarding the young musicians chosen to receive instruments from the Canada Council, in which you can here Arnold Choi at the end.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Off on Offenbach!

Thanks, Edi, for recommending these!  Listening to Offenbach often these days!

 Jacques OFFENBACH: "Concerto Militaire" in G major (1848) for Cello and Orchestra -complete-
0:10 / I. Allegro maestoso [12'06'']
12:20 / II. Andante [9'08'']
21:32 / III. Rondò [7'30'']
Catalin ILEA, cello - Romanian Radio Symphony Orchestra - Emil SIMON, conductor - (Live rec: June 1991, Bucharest Radio Concert Hall - (p) 1992 Olympia)

Les Larmes de Jacqueline (Jacqueline's Tears) Op.76 No.2 / Harmonies du soir Op.68 composed by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) and dedicated to Arsène Houssaye.
The performance is by Werner Thomas with Münchener Kammerorchester and it's dedicated to Jacqueline Du Pre.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Professional development... Life long learning

Summer of 2012 began with a long drive to Idaho to take two core Suzuki courses for cello instructors.  The completion of these making me now a registered teacher. Prerequisites for these courses were reading Dr. Suzuki's Nurtured by Love and Ability Development from Age Zero.  Yes, I have read them before.  But it was good to review them... just as we continue to review much of our repertoire in order to keep it fresh in our minds, and to know the material better and better, and also because when we learn anything, we are hanging that new knowledge on what we already know (the argument for not depending on Google, but for actually remembering things!).  The courses included Suzuki's philosophy and teaching methods, and a basic "how-to-teach" run down of the first book of Suzuki repertoire.

In preparation for my "Check out the Cello" course at the community centre, I also reviewed Charlene Wilson's Sing a Song of Twinkle and [Ideas for] Teaching Suzuki Cello for great beginner activities and songs.

While in Idaho, I bought three books which supplied my summer (and beyond!) with reading:

Resource Packet for Suzuki Cello Teacher Training compiled by the Suzuki Association of the Americas. (~150 pages, spiral bound) This book is outlined with articles in the categories of: Philosophy, method, profession for teachers; planning, structure, pacing of and ideas for lessons; orientation, tips and advice for practice, and motivation for parents. I think this can only be purchased through Suzuki teacher trainers.

Teaching from the Balance Point and Teaching with an Open Heart by Ed Kreitman 
Ed speaks from over 20 years of Suzuki violin teaching experience.  The subtitle for the first is A Guide for Suzuki Parents, Teachers, and Students, and for the second is A Guide to Developing Conscious Musicianship for Suzuki Parents, Teachers, and Students.  I found the first one full of very hands-on practical ideas, and the second somewhat more philosophical.. though there are also some very good practical ideas in it, too!  While much of the hands-on is directly written regarding violin playing, there is a lot which translates to the cello.  If I had to only recommend ONE book to a new strings teacher or violin parent (not sure how easily a parent could translate violin to cello... we need the book "translated"!), it would be Teaching from the Balance Point.

While traveling across the continent to Suzuki conferences is out of my budget, I was very happy to learn that the SAA is providing a Mini Online Conference.  By subscription, I am able to watch several videos filmed at the 2012 Minnesota Conference, and download the handouts provided by the presenters.  Already I have been able to use some ideas presented by Pamela Devenport regarding cello thumbs to help one of my students!

One of my students asked me one time, "Do grown up cellists keep taking lessons?"  My answer was,  "Pretty much, yes."  Maybe not in the same way as during our "student days," but there is always more to learn.  I did not pursue a performing (or teaching) career when young, so I have LOTS more to learn!  Regular lessons would mean travel, and I did consider this several years ago, but the developing arthritis discouraged me from continuing.  However, I am still playing, and getting some help here and there is, well, helpful!  Though I have not had a lot of cello lessons since moving to this area, I have continued to learn with each lesson I have had with George Kiraly, retired principal cellist of the Okanagan Symphony and the Kamloops Symphony, and I have recently had another lesson.

Teachers who studied with Dr. Suzuki were asked to take a Teacher's Pledge*.  One part of the pledge was, "We will continue to study teaching in the future with much reflection, and through this continuing study we will be better able to concentrate energies toward better teaching."  I heartily agree!

*(Follow the link to an 11 minute video regarding life-long learning.)