This is partly my fault. But still!

Over the past few weeks, I have had numerous students insinuate that I am not a cellist, but only a cello teacher. This bizarre contradiction sometimes makes me laugh. Yesterday however, I stared at my student until beads of sweat appeared on her brow and she started fumbling for a way out of it. I told her to stop digging the hole and worked very hard not to go into the all-too-ready diatribe on the tip of my tongue.

Not. Amused.

The genesis of this blog was this very issue. I will take responsibility for not performing frequently enough for my students: I have largely been recording, gigging at rock venues or injured–not the ideal paradigm for the hopeful cellist slogging through Old Crunchy looking for inspiration. Still, I would love to Vulcan mind-meld with the students who have a one dimensional view of my experience so they could see the years of every day rehearsal, 6 hours a day of practice, concerto competitions, solos, master classes, jazz and rock gigs, studio work. But in the end, it’s my perspective that’s gone all one dimensional. I have a job to do with my pupils, and that job does not include making myself look like some sort of super cellist. It’s a good exercise at non attachment that I am normally a little better at!

With my recovery from ulnar surgery, I hope to have the physical wherewithal to make performance a more substantive part of my identity as a cellist. As a matter of course, this means I will have less time to take students: I hope the ones in my studio appreciate the balance I try to strike. It wouldn’t be the cello if it was easy.

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5 thoughts on “Identity Crisis”

  1. In addition to the performer/teacher thing, there's one more comment that especially piano teachers hear all too frequently, "What else do you teach? Oh, only piano?" …

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  2. I'm speechless.

    Sputter, sputter.

    Certainly any student who feels that way needs to spend some more time in the studio of hard knocks. They have no idea how good they have it!

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  3. How can someone who is not a cellist be a cello teacher? This needs to be mutually inclusive, not mutually exclusive. Do they teach logic or reasoning in school anymore?

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  4. I reflected on this issue recently:

    http://caseymccann.com/blog/2010/4/8/those-who-cant-do.html

    But the bottom line is, some students (and their parents) are just not very gracious and misunderstand the student/teacher relationship. I had one parent tell me last week that I hurt her son's feelings by saying (in a perfectly appropriate context), "Here, let me show you a better way to do that." She expected me to change to accommodate the kid, and when I refused, she got nasty. I prefer to work with folks who respect my expertise as a teacher.

    On another note, I actually think it's really good that you don't try to appear to be super cellist and show off for your students. This behavior can be really intimidating – the all-knowing guru-teacher is an all-too-prevalent phenomenon, and a destructive one at that.

    Thanks for keeping it real! I love your posts about the less pleasant aspects of teaching.

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  5. [this comment was made incorrectly to another post. I am reposting it here]

    Nobody ever accused Margaret Rowell of not being a "real cellist" even though her domain was more in pedagogy than performance (even though she was also a capable performer).

    Maybe you'll do for Balto/DC what she did for SF!

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