This past weekend, my students and I were very lucky to have Alice Vierra up to teach masterclasses. Alice is a special lady for many reasons. The first is that she's an expert teacher: she's a Suzuki cello teacher and teacher trainer with many, many years of teaching experience. The second reason is a personal one. Alice was one of my first teachers. In addition to having her own cello studio and training teachers, Alice also teaches strings in Fairfax County elementary schools. I started my life as a cellist in her strings class in the 4th grade. Little did I know at the time what great hands I was in! I think it's pretty special that 20 years later she came to teach my students.
A masterclass works like this, for an hour a 3-4 students gather with a teacher. They take turns playing for the teacher and getting some feedback - almost like mini-lessons. Having seen Alice's own beautifully polished students, I was very excited to see what she would do with mine.
Alice oils Magda's arm, just like Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz needed to be oiled.
Magda plays with her well-oiled, loose elbow. If you look at the second photo of Magda and compare it with the first, you can see that her elbow looks lower and more relaxed.
Alice works with Joshua to get a deeper, "rubbing" sound. It was really fun to see Joshua's tone transform in the 15 minutes he worked with Alice.
Alice adjusts Zavier's finger shape to be more mountainous.
Zavier tests out the mountains.
Alice works on the angle of Isabelle's cello. In a few short minutes, Isabelle was feeling more comfortable and was able to play with more freedom.
The masterclasses were a great success. It was really fun to see the transformations that can take place during 15 minutes of work. I saw my students get a deeper sound, improve their posture, play with more style. The list goes on!
And now for the hardest part. It's easy to keep chugging on as we are, but masterclasses are an opportunity for growth. We'll need to take these new ideas and practice them deeply in order to establish them as tools in our cellistic toolbox.