• Complimentary 30-minute trial lesson
• Easy online booking & payment
• Beginners welcome
• Lessons in Cammeray OR online (via Zoom)
• Fully vaccinated, with Covid Safe QR checkin
• Working With Children Check
• AMEB Technical Preparation
• Scholarship Audition & Competition Preparation
• Orchestral Excerpt Coaching
• Improvisation Coaching
Playing an instrument requires balance. Playing music (repertoire) is fun, while practicing studies (technique) can be frustrating. Focus too much on repertoire, and the basics suffer, limiting the repertoire one is able to play. Focus too much on technique, and boredom sets in, compromising motivation to practice. The best learning curve toes this fine line between the two, which may be different for every student.
My style of teaching is along these lines. Repertoire is recommended based on technical strengths and weaknesses; choosing it wisely will encourage motivation and love for the cello. And yet, proper technique is paramount, and too often neglected. A few minutes per day devoted to improving technique saves many hours of frustration—and injury—years down the line.
In fact, most institutions value good technique above “grade level.” This is perhaps why, since starting my studio in Sydney in 2017, several of my students have already gone on to be accepted into various programs in Sydney Conservatorium’s Rising Stars, Sydney Youth Orchestra, and Australian Youth Orchestra.
Of course, some people just want to learn cello in order to have a bit of enjoyment at home, and not everyone wants to play in a concerto competition. While these students may want a more relaxed approach to learning, the concepts are unchanged. The more beautiful the tone and pure the intonation, the higher chance an aspiring professional has of winning a scholarship, just as the higher chance an amateur has of enjoying the fruits of their labour!
Criteria for prospective students... next to nothing! No musical experience is necessary, just a desire to play this wonderful instrument. All ages welcome: my youngest student is 5 and my oldest is in their 70s. Once a commitment has been made, however, I do encourage daily practice, anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on your goals.
Values & aims for aspiring professionals
My hope for any student is that they value technique and musicality in equal measure. We have all heard of the competition judge’s classic dilemma: does the technically flawless but musically boring competitor win, or should the top honors go to the dirtier performer that has something to say? Ideally, with regular and conscientious practice, this becomes a false dilemma, and students exhibit both strengths.
My first real teacher, a Romanian cellist taught in the old Russian school, had a singular goal and passion while teaching: Technique. I remember spending months on a proper bow hold, on learning to break a chord, on learning to shift with a loose and straight wrist. My first goal when teaching is to find new ways to teach a solid technique while still keeping lessons engaging.
The importance of proper technique cannot be overstated. It prevents injury, purifies tone and intonation, hones clarity of articulation, and shortens the learning curve for new pieces of music. It is perhaps the single biggest indicator of whether a young cellist might be successful in the future.
Of course, technique is not everything. It can be best summed up by a rather distressing form of feedback Janos Starker, with a twinkle in his eye, once delivered to me after I played Piatti’s 8th Caprice for him: “If you cannot play it, make a musical moment out of it.” Musicality takes a performance to a level where technique alone cannot. Indeed, it can even be used to cover a great many sins, as the late master playfully suggested.
Musicality, in my opinion, is more than simply penciling in some dynamics into the student’s part and asking them to “phrase.” It is discussing leading to dominants or emphasizing non-chord tones… or simply telling a younger student to not shy away from the “weird notes.” It is pointing out individual lines in a Bach Suite and asking students what dynamics they’d do, then asking them to make it sound just as convincing with completely different dynamics as well.
While I encourage students to target concrete goals and performance opportunities such as competitions, auditions, and examinations, my overarching goal is to see them thinking for themselves, making music in a way that truly comes from within, and growing as human beings as they explore a deeper understanding of both themselves and the music they interpret. Of course, this is massively facilitated by a solid technique… and thus, we have come full circle.