We are preparing our university music students to thrive into the next generation as leaders in the world of music. This entails great responsibility as a professor, to guide them to their utmost potential as a musician, whether it be a performer, teacher, or researcher. I believe the motivational drive of music is what led a student to pursue this career path, and this is also why we, as music teachers, are here today to set the platform for creativity and discovery. Pablo Casals, a renowned cellist, performer, and pedagogue, describes this motivational drive as The First Principle. It provides an organic explanation in the power of listening, writing, and playing music.
Students at the university level have just entered a new realm of discovery, one that will facilitate the transition between their thoughts and ideas, to a possible reality for their future. When teaching a student, it is crucial that they understand the meaning of music and feel it within their ‘souls’. This level of understanding requires the student to have knowledge of the history, art, literature, and other external influences that may have set the context of the composition at the time. I aim to provide perspective and awareness to my students, to develop a more in-depth understanding, but also push the limits to exploring contemporary modes of performance and expressivity through music.
In addition, students should have a thorough understanding of the principles of instrumental artistry. As a professor, our pedagogical approach should not be limited to technical corrections, but to present a broader view on various reasons and explanations. Questions will arise, and it will be our responsibility to go engage their thoughts about such techniques and ideas. This encourages critical thinking for students, developing an important ability to support their own practices. To imitate no longer suffices, students must refer to fundamental principles, understand the principles from an organic point of view, and develop their own understanding.
My teaching philosophy is based on the methods and techniques adopted by the great cellists of the 20th century: Janos Starker, Pablo Casals, Mistlav Rostropovich, Gerhard Mantel, only to name a few. Many of these methods focus on the concept of creating sound using natural body movement. The use of body movement and utilizing natural body weight to create sound is not only important in the quality of playing, but also avoids tension and possible musculoskeletal injuries. My method incorporates the theories of physical motion and Dalcroze eurhythmics to increase flow throughout the body. Such methods and techniques are drawing closer similarities with motions in many areas of sport. I believe students should be aware on the mechanics of the body, and how this significantly impacts their performance.
As musicians, we often question our fundamental purpose as a musician and artist. From my experience as a performer, pedagogue, and researcher, I have come to realize the importance of being a musician lies in the ability to reach out to diverse communities and spread the joy of music and music making. As a professor, I feel the importance of guiding students to visualize the bigger picture, on how they plan to contribute to others through the world of music.
“My dream of popularising my instrument has been well nigh attained, and friendship among the practitioners has risen as well. At the end of my life I fell satisfaction and pride about my contributions to the cello and music” - Janos Starker