Recently I’ve been leading two weekend courses for string teachers, for CEPIC in Madrid, an organisation set up by violinist Andrés Ortiz Saúco and cellist Álvaro Llorente Esteban. Initially I was concerned about having to speak alongside a translator – how could I keep the feeling of spontaneity? But during the months of preparation I became completely confident that Andrés would translate in a way which kept the flow going.
Most of my time at the courses was spent working, but there were typically long Spanish lunches and late evening meals, for talking with everyone and exchanging ideas. Andrés and Álvaro, it turned out, have a gift for choosing restaurants and getting on well with the staff. Apart from the modern clothes and mobile phones, blink and in each venue we could have been back in paintings from a century ago. Not theme restaurants but the real thing!
The ambition of the courses is the ‘real thing’ too. Knowing who else has been invited to deliver the courses past and future, I feel honoured to be part of such an interesting line-up. As we waited for the taxi to take me back to the airport, Andrés mentioned he had by chance been in Finland a few days earlier, where he caught up with Géza Szilvay, who has been to CEPIC before and is returning later this year. Their conversation turned to the problem of ‘tribes’ in the string teaching world. Géza, who had met and conversed in depth with Paul Rolland, and watched courses by Shinichi Suzuki, feels that we all have so much in common we ought to concentrate on this, and not on the differences. I couldn’t agree more, and my whole approach for thirty years has been writing materials which can be used by teachers who come from a wide variety of starting points.
When asked what my ‘method’ is, I usually try to show it varies, depending on the pupils themselves. Week to week, different pupils will require a slightly different approach. But the essence of what we string teachers are trying to achieve merges quite early on. For me this occurs the Superstudies Book 1 stage, where basic R.H and L.H techniques are in place, and we can begin to develop them in partnership with style and musicianship. What really matters is that we help each generation of pupils to access the pleasure of playing.
As we bade farewell, Andrés and I made a toast: “To string teaching, and the meeting of minds.”
Photo credit: Álvaro Llorente Esteban.