I started teaching my first pupil when I was 15. When I arrived at the Royal College of Music, teachers tended to recommend getting into teaching if you were not already doing so. The only way to learn to teach is by mixing your experiences of it as a pupil, with doing it, reading around the subject, thinking and asking questions. I love teaching. It is so exciting meeting one individual after another, all different, all needing you to find out how they tick, and how I will teach them.
When people ask, “What method do you use?” I reply, (like so many) that I use my own method. In other words, I build people from the start with a solid, slowly built set of skills, that they understand, (because we have gone slowly) growing and understanding how to use their body naturally and well to play. I’m a great believer in the Ancient Chinese wisdom that says to go slowly is the fast way.
We all need techniques solidly built and constantly refined and developed. There is no point at which refinement and understanding end. I want you to feel you can navigate your way in a rehearsal with a cello group you have formed; so you can be prepared for the baptism of fire that comes with joining an orchestra and, that enables you, the student, to teach yourself in your practice. You are your own teacher when not with a teacher!
I want pupils playing beautiful music and at the beginning, I have things for you to play as we build towards getting your first book of pieces. My lessons, for some time, are structured as a model for practice. Once you are motoring, we can vary the structure. The way we work is detailed, analytical and confidence building. I am ambitious for you! If you understand how a chunk of a piece needs approaching, the work emanates outwards from there. We do talk about how you will practice – of methods of practice, and variety of work. Every September and each New Year, I introduce new habits to focus on and we consciously ditch some old ones. Each term I work with a few specific musical and technical ideas with most pupils. Immersion helps ground ideas in us.
I don’t tend to do much exam work. You only need Grades 5 & 8, and I feel you also need the experience of an exam. I want to develop musicians who play the cello. I don’t like the constriction of hoops to be jumped through, though some need jumping through. When someone does want or needs to do an exam, we prepare for two terms once you are ready, and treat it like training for a marathon so there are no last-minute panics. It is structured so there is as much ease as possible. You need to be committed and I don’t like nagging!
I have taught in a variety of schools in London, Cambridge and Berkshire. I have taught at Junior Trinity and Guildhall as a deputy, at the City Lit, CYM in London and Chichester University and I have done a masterclass at Peter Symonds College. In the 90s I taught in a Battersea junior school that became a flagship school for music, and in particular, string playing. For nine years I taught beginners. It was the most amazing experience as this is always the hardest teaching any of us does. Many of those cellists got places at the Centre for Young Musicians and I had the privilege of making it happen.
I now teach a variety of adult learners, children, some teenagers and experienced adults returning after a long gap. I have a lot of experience of people with Dyslexia. Everyone is different I find and there are many ways of helping. It is not a reason to not learn the cello! I have had children with Dyspraxia and Autism too. Recently, I began working with a lady in her 70s with Parkinson’s and it is fascinating to me, to see how our musicians need to “be in our body and senses” has helped her tremors subside and for her to be able to do something people probably assumed couldn’t be done. What matters to this lady, and me, is that someone has decided to follow their vital dream of learning the cello. Decisions bring change and growth and a lot of joy and enrichment.
Alongside developing a strong technique, I try to create musicians who have a broad experience of music, of history and style and an understanding of it. Most of your early pieces are from the Baroque eras, so you develop stylistic understanding and where our string techniques come from, early.
Many cellists have a strong personal feeling of the kind of cellists they want to be. Occasionally I have folk cellists, improvisers and others, coming for consolidation and expansion work. I feel we operate best when we know our identity and I encourage finding that voice.
I encourage students to listen widely and to also to use YouTube as it is an amazing resource. I hope people read around and engage in this quest we are all on.
Do contact me for my availability, my terms and conditions and current rates. I am a member of the ISM and ESTA and I also have a CRB certificate.