My teaching addresses modern challenges in cello playing, promotes an integrated approach to learning, and supports practice as a result of Informed Intuition through comprehensive cognitive preparation.
The method I have created, Beyond the Octave, allows students absolute freedom over the fingerboard by dealing with the extended positions and the advanced use of the thumb. Informed Intuition teaches musicians how to carve their own paths and find their voices on the cello through careful studies of the repertoire, music history, and theory. Music always starts from the heart, and the artistic approach encourages educated and intelligent choices, with musicians allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to follow their intuitions. A rich, informed, and educated foundation provides the nutrients for this. In my work with students, I do not dictate permanent solutions and recipes for performing. Rather, music can be played differently and coherently every time. I am a firm believer that technical ability should not be a goal, but rather a tool that is used to clearly convey a musical thought. I encourage students to keep music at the forefront of their performance by utilizing technique as a service to musical expression.
Informed Intuition teaches musicians how to carve their own paths and find their own voices on the cello. The foundation rests not only on careful studies of the repertoire, music history, technique, and theory, but explorations of other arts and cultures. Educated, intelligent choices, informed by thorough studies of music, and buttressed by other artistic experiences, such as actively contemplating paintings, reading literature, and studying different cultures, free players from relying on “correctivess” of technical execution. It is an integrated approach to studying music.
Achieving a satisfying level of performance requires explorations of music history, harmony, structure, technique, and other arts—but most of all, yourself as a human being. Becoming a better musician cannot happen without becoming a better person. Therefore, the most important aspect of being a mentor is to carefully look into the personality of the student. Informed Intuition means drawing out students’ best qualities, addressing their weaknesses, and allowing them to grow and mature as a person and musician. My teaching approach focuses equally on the student’s personality and musicianship, while promoting a deep understanding of music, creating an ever-vulnerable feeling of positive self-criticism and striving to excel on technical and musical planes.
As a teacher, I prefer to teach principles, rather than to give solutions that work only in a specific context. My goal is to educate students who eventually can think for themselves and become inspiring individuals and teachers.
I use innovative methods like the Organized Method of String Playing by Janos Starker with my addendum to it, Beyond the Octave. With my advanced students, I require a thorough knowledge of the scores and the stylistic context of the repertoire. I teach many ways to understand composers’ intentions as well as how to apply technical competency to best execute these musical ideas. I teach an approach to interpreting music, rather than execution of a certain, rigid interpretation.
I enjoy working with ensembles and especially with the cello ensemble. It provides a great opportunity for students to play together, show off their skills, and learn the subtle differences between chamber and orchestral playing.
Overall, I create a very passionate environment in my studio, invigorating and inspiring other students to pursue their life passions, whether it is in performing or something else. I believe that you can be truly successful if you work hard at something that you love, and every day of my work I try to pass my love for music to others through teaching, conducting and performing.
With beginners, I focus on getting the fundamentals very solid, as this is the crucial foundation for future improvement. Bad habits that are not solved can completely prevent further development, and can even cause injury.
Depending on the age of the student as well as their personality and learning abilities, I craft lessons for maximum individual benefit. With adult beginners, a fair amount of time is spent learning the flexibility of fingers and building strength while being relaxed. With children as young as 4 years old, the focus is mostly on making the music lessons a place to which they would like to come back, while insisting on very simple tasks.
Ear training and rhythm practice, along with theoretical knowledge, are essential to develop quickly and take on new and challenging repertoire. I usually begin my students with repertoire from the Suzuki Cello Method books and, as they progress, move into standard repertoire of the cello.
Older children and adult beginners learn from Suzuki Cello Books and various other methods, including famous Russian "Khrestomatia", which has been in use since the 1950s and guides players from year 1 through 12, repertoire guidelines designed by the French Cello Society, and my own methods. I include Etudes and Scales, the daily bread of every musician and an excellent foundation for intonation and pure technique.
Intermediate to Advanced students begin to play the standard cello repertoire. Starker's Method of Organized String Playing is a required exercise book in my studio. Intermediate and Advanced students also learn about playing in appropriate historical styles and are required to follow my curriculum (outlined below) for the pieces they are currently studying.