Teaching & Legacy
Professor at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music
Ever since I was 12 years old, while studying at the Yehudi Menuhin School in England, I was fascinated with the process and notion of teaching, the cello specifically, and knew already then it would be a significant part of my life. In those early years, experiencing the passing on of a musical legacy through what I later discovered was called ‘performance practice’, and the idea of potentially becoming myself the conduit of an ages-old aural tradition, entrusted to me by my distinguished teachers, was absolutely magical. And a virtuous ideal to be motivated to practice for! I would be responsible for the preservation of history in ways books could never be. While the idea of “giving back” is a cliché, I cannot think of a better way to explain my motivation, satisfaction and reward in helping those students I have had the pleasure to know and work with, and see/hear them progress. I am forever indebted to all my past teachers who showed me the way, generously and patiently sharing their experience, knowledge, philosophy, and passion for music, and inspiring me by their example. Their belief in me as a young (not-so-self-directed) cellist stimulated the development of what became my own teaching philosophy, which I attempt to summarize below. Those excellent cello teachers I was fortunate to spend the most time with were: Guido Mascellini (Rome), Myra Chahin (the first YMS years), Alberto Lysy (my father, the violinist), Maurice Gendron, William Pleeth, Radu Aldulescu, Yehudi Menuhin (who I performed with many a time), and last but not least Ralph Kirshbaum (who I will still go to occasionally for advice). My wife Margaret, a violinst and dedicated pedagogue, has also been a constant inspiration. She proves daily that passion and patience can bring about incredible results. Her boundless energy and spirit has spread the joy of music-making to countless young musicians. She is the founder and director of a wonderful school in Santa Monica called SOL-LA Music Academy (www.sollamusicacademy.org). I am so grateful for the privilege of having taught (actually having learned through teaching), at two major universities: McGill University in Montreal (for 15 years) and the University of California Los Angeles Herb Alpert School of Music (since 2003). And several excellent summer programs and masterclasses around the world. After over 35 years of teaching I have so many wonderful memories, and really hardly any bad ones! These schools have been such stimulating environments in which to teach, program concerts, conduct research, interact with the younger generation on a daily basis, meet brilliant colleagues in a variety of vocations, make lasting friendships over the years with my students, and altogether live a very colorful life.
A frequent question which arises is “what is your method and style of teaching?” While it is impossible to provide a short answer, I will try. My goal is to teach students to discover the tools to teach themselves. I strive to guide them to learn to be truly independent and creative musicians,not copies of anyone else; to be instrumentalists who can find solutions to any problem so as to find their ‘voice’ confidently, and to help launch them into the world without fear. I believe every student has something special to offer in this field, and global music industry. There is room for us all.