A Lesson with Stephen Balderston

I've been at Marrowstone this past week. I'm sharing the role of Student Life Coordinator with my good friend and bassist, Scott Teske. Aside from getting to chew out a few rebellious curfew-breakers, one of my favorite highlights has been taking a cello lesson with Stephen Balderston.

The hour with him was mine to use how I wanted (which is always great.) We talked "teacher-talk" for awhile. I wanted to bring up a few issues I've noticed with my students, things like bow holds, pronation, supenation, left hand fluidity, vibrato, tone, etc.

He suggested reading a few books, which I've already ordered from the interwebs. The first, which he mentioned in a masterclass that I missed (due to a camper's trip to the ER), The Talent Code. This one seems to align perfectly with my own philosophy of talent: "Talent is not born, it's grown." I can't wait to read how the author brings other disciplines like soccer, academics, writing, social skills, etc. together to prove this point.

Mr. Balderston also suggested using ideas from the book Playing the String Game, which has tons of games with secret motives for teachers to use in classes and private lessons. I'm always looking for more ways to convey teaching points and cello technique.

Aside from talking teacher-stuff, we got to work on my own personal technique. I'm so glad that he was as picky as he was - the things he brought up are the very things I've secretly wanted to improve for awhile now.

I tend to speed up my bow ever so slightly on the down-bow changes, causing the tiniest of separation between bows. This is a problem that no audience would be able to pick up on, but once fixed makes for a much easier listen. Remedy? Move my wrist less. It's not as simple of a fix as you'd think. Just takes slow, long bows and a very attentive ear.

I've got to get back to playing games with the brilliant students who are here. Marrowstone hosts some of the most talented children and young adults! I'm honored to witness each of them grow in talent through these two weeks. I can't believe it's almost over!