Woweee, was that a tough decision. Each person who entered (11 in all) had something beautiful to offer, and I say that in truth, with affection. One of my students even entered, which was kind of touching, as many of them don’t really care about the blog. The reason I chose this particular entry is because I felt like I learned something about my approach from it. I have also taken the liberty of sharing the runner-up’s entry, which could have easily been the winner as well. In fact, I’m going to ask Strings if they’ll give him a subscription, too. Honorable mention to GGP, for pithiness and charm.

Without further ado, the winner is: Autumn Hiscock!!

Here’s her entry: 
The essence of Emily’s take on teaching through her blog boils down to relax (both your body and your expectations: beating yourself up helps no one); respect (yourself, your instrument, and those you work with); trust (your choices, your teachers, your musicality); honesty (lying to yourself sabotages your progress and development); challenge (your habits, your comfort zone, and your routine to find inspiration); simplify and clarify (your approach, your patterns, and your goals); distill (complicated instruction or an overload of technique to sift the wheat from the chaff); and listen (to your heart, to those who genuinely seek to help you grow, and to the music inside you and on the page).

Emily encourages us to think about our playing holistically instead of just focusing on how to produce sound. I find this invaluable because so many articles talk about mechanics without acknowledging that there’s a human being trying to produce the music. The issues she addresses always have some application or connection to my needs, which suggests that they’re universal without being vague. She delivers technical explanations clearly and with humor. Emily never loses me. She’s clear, direct, and couches her advice in terms I can easily understand and apply to my own experience.

Fantastico! I left the flattering bit in there, because I want other teachers to know how important demeanor is in the learning environment. The cello is tough enough without being abraded in the lessons. Teach as you would want to be taught. 

Second place (which is really like winner, version 2.0) goes to Justin Long. Here’s his entry: 

You must breathe while you play! Breathing is not just desirable, it
is absolutely essential to good technique. How can you be relaxed if
you’re not breathing? Breathing comes first, then relaxation, then
technique, and if you happen to get a good sound, that’s a bonus!
Consciously breathe in and out while you play, with your mouth wide
open if necessary. Breathe audibly or even hum if necessary.

Relaxation is not something that happens after you’ve acquired good
technique. Good technique comes only after you’ve learned to
eliminate tension. Constantly check your shoulders, your hands, you
eyes, your jaw. Be especially careful to make sure that your thumbs
are relaxed and your shoulders are neutral, not rising up toward your
ears. Stretch before and after practice to avoid injury.

Practice a passage as slowly as necessary to play it reliably. Use a
metronome! Practice just a measure or two at a time at first, only a
couple of notes at a time if necessary. If moving between two notes
is difficult, isolate one aspect of your technique at a time.
Practice shifting very slowly, and two notes to a bow. If you suspect
your fingering is the problem, check to see what the other hand is
doing — it may be your bow!

When you practice a new technique, you will sound terrible at first,
so get over it. Remember that five times is good, fifty times is
better, 500 times is best.
Chop wood, carry water!

Hooray! This contest was really an embarrassment of riches. I thank everyone who entered, and the people who support them in their efforts. In fact, I thank the people who are not supportive of them as well. Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it? 🙂
As a side note, I am going to be blog-lite for this week and some of next. My left arm is starting to threaten tendinitis (oh how I wish it was spelled tendonitis)  and I have to take it very seriously to avoid major downtime. I can still type with my right hand, though, so I’ll try to get back to the commenters and emailers. 

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6 Responses

  1. Thank you again, Emily!

    I’m printing out Justin’s summary to pin above my music stand. It’s great.

  2. These are indeed terrifically written. Actually, I think I should come back to them and review them once in awhile. I know, I’ll print them off and put them in my current practice rep binder.

  3. Emily, I read this post a while back and recently stumbled across this quote that made me think of you:

    “The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.”
    —Dan Rather

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