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.

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