Teaching is a vital part of my life as a musician. I learn
about what I do and how I do it by articulating these things
to others. I keep my standards high and current by representing
them to my students. I continually evaluate and re-evaluate
my cellistic and musical convictions in the process and debate
of teaching. I try to impart my passion for the cello and
its expressive musical possibilities to my students and inspire
a curiosity in them to search for their own voice and message.
In pursuit of these aims I place strong emphasis on two interdependent
streams of development: the cellistic and the musical. In
our cellistic goals we seek to expand technical horizons and
instrumental control through the study of scales, etudes and
where appropriate, technical concertos. I use a comprehensive
system of scales ultimately designed to cover all keys in
all formats in four octaves and etudes of Dotzauer, Duport
and Popper. You can examine and download
the scale system here. (You'll need Acrobat Reader, and
it might take a couple of minutes depending on the speed of
your connection.) Musically we investigate repertoire of an
appropriate level of difficulty attempting to cover an ever-expanding
cross section of the standard repertoire but adding less familiar
works when possible (I particularly encourage an interest
in the music of today's Canadian composers). Normally at least
two works will be studied at any given time one being a major
concerto or sonata the other perhaps a virtuoso concert piece.
The Bach Solo Suites are always important and a regular feature
of studied repertoire: I use my own edition as a starting
point but encourage students to find convincing alternatives
should they desire.
If I adhere to any kind of pedagogical school it would be
that of the "generalist specialist". A musician
should be capable of bringing appropriate life to the works
of a composer using a language akin to that which a composer
would be familiar with in his or her own time (whether that
be 300 years ago or yesterday). The period performance practice
movement is of immense importance and promotes the ability
of the artist to apply a great deal more to their music-making
than a thick layer of their own personality.
I generally teach students who have a certain maturity which
is usually a result of years. This means the age range tends
to be 14 or over with the majority being high school to University
age although I have taken students younger than this (11/12)
because the particular individuals demonstrate qualities that
interest and excite me. I have often accepted students who
appear to have talent but have not been challenged to use
it productively or have been technically mis-advised to the
point where they have become unable to use it. I find it most
rewarding to watch a student released from the bonds of restrictive
technique into a real playing arena. I do not take beginners.
Setting young people off on the road to cello playing is a
skill I feel lies with others: I prefer to accept them after
a commitment to the instrument has been made and a desire
for in depth knowledge realised.
I encourage all my students to join collaborative music-making
experiences (such as a youth orchestra and/or chamber music
program) in an effort to provide a musical experience of integrity
and variety. The student whose sole exposure to music-making
is through private practise and one-on-one instruction is
missing a great deal: it is vital to experience the social
value of music.
My students attend such Canadian summer programs at the Banff
Centre, Domaine Forget, Music Bridge, Orford Arts Centre,
the PSQ's QuartetFest, National Arts Centre Young Artists'
Program, the Southern Ontario Chamber Music Institute, Winnipeg
Cello Institute and Tuckamore Festival. Internationally they
have been invited to London (UK) Cello Masterclasses, Casalmaggiore
International Summer Academy, ARIA, Stanford University String
Quartet Festival, Interlochen, Killington, Tanglewood and
the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. In these situations
and others during the regular school year they perform in
Master Classes for such artists as Roman Borys, Denis Brott,
Timothy Eddy, Norman Fischer, Desmond Hoebig, Paul Katz, Ralph
Kirshbaum, Ron Leonard, Lawrence Lesser, Antonio Lysy, Aldo
Parisot, Shauna Rolston and Janos Starker to name but a few.
A number of them have been successful in local, national,
and international festivals and competitions and I encourage
students to take RCM graded examinations at appropriate and
carefully chosen times (I prefer a balanced approach to these
projects and resist a dependency on exam results on the part
of students) - all who have undertaken this have done well
up to and including the ARCT level.
Besides the above I have coached many young and established
professionals in their preparation for orchestral auditions
both on an ad hoc basis and through a personal seminar entitled
"So What Now?" designed for recent school leavers.
As a regular Mentor for the National Academy Orchestra I sought
to inform and inspire new entrants to the profession both
through playing together and through seminars on such topics
as "Musicians for Tomorrow". One season as a new
venture for the National Academy Orchestra I spent a week
with the participants in the program as the first 'Mentor
in Residence', allowing an intensive study of particular aspects
of the profession
There is a distinct discipline to learning a musical instrument
and I try to reflect this discipline in the structure of lessons.
Lessons will (with rare and unavoidable exceptions) be regular
and weekly although often the start-time will vary due to
my schedule. Normally each lesson begins with examination
of the week's technical work (an aspect of the scale and/or
an etude) and proceeds to repertoire. While my playing schedule
is intense I arrange sessions with students at such times
that they do not feel as if they are crammed in between other
priorities of my life
I currently maintain a private teaching studio in Waterloo.