Cello, Guitar, Voice, Piano
Degree from Berklee College of Music
Classical and Contemporary Styles
I grew up taking piano, cello and voice lessons, writing songs and teaching myself to play guitar, which I ended up majoring in at the Berklee College of Music. My passion in music lies in singing and songwriting and I’m very happy to incorporate songwriting into lessons. I’ve taken lessons in traditional classical settings and in much more creative/informal ways. Similarly, I’ve played in a wide variety of styles and settings, from classical music in orchestras to punk music in rock bands. Because my experience with music was partially very traditional and partially self-motived and based on intuition, I like to make sure I connect with students in the way they learn best. Some people like to learn the theory and see the sheet music, some people prefer to listen, improvise and experiment. There’s no wrong way to learn to play, as long as you’re practicing with the kind of technique that keeps your body healthy! In addition to teaching, you can find me around Philly playing with several bands, including my original project Ellen Siberian Tiger, Mother Moses, Two Girls and Manic Pixi.
When did you begin playing music, and why?:
I began playing music when I was very young, mostly from my family’s influence and encouragement. Singing has been a joy of mine since before I could talk, and I started playing piano at age 4 when my mother enrolled me in lessons. When I turned 10, I began taking cello lessons at my school, primarily because my older sister played as well although I quickly became passionate about the instrument myself. I began learning the guitar in high school so that I could write my own songs.
What are your personal goals as a musician?:
As a writer and performer of original music, my goals are centered around being creative and emotional with my music. My hope is to play my instruments well enough, with a thorough enough understanding of both the instrument and myself, that I can create music that other people can connect to emotionally.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?:
It’s not a concept that applies specifically to music, but I think the ability to focus 100% on a performance clicked for me in a very special way. I was lucky enough to play the cello with a chamber orchestra that traveled for 2 weeks in Europe when I was a teenager. I was feeling the effects of spending several hours a day on a bus, and a little upset from the stress of traveling in high school without any close friends on the trip. I felt insecure, tired and cranky. Right before our performance however, I realized I needed to forget all that stuff and focus on the incredible opportunity I had been given. It was a once in a lifetime thing I was doing, and we were about to do our last show of the trip. I pushed myself to focus harder on the music than I ever had before, and I think I played better than I ever had before. Since then, before each performance I do my best to put everything out of my thoughts except for the music and what a gift it is to play! I hope I can always hang onto that amount of focus and gratitude.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
Practice with music that you love whenever possible, and have patience with yourself!
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
When I was 18 I starting working on a new fingerpicking pattern for a song I was writing on guitar that involved using my thumb in a new way. I’d been told over and over again the importance in fingerpicking of being able to completely separate the bass line (played by the thumb) and the melody (played by the other fingers), because when they work independently you can play with more speed and accuracy. That made sense to me in theory, but I always found shortcuts and ways around doing the slow, methodical practice that it required. I could play pretty fast but my thumb kept missing notes. Once I started working on this song and wanting to play it faster, I really had to practice the part slowly, intentionally, and for a long LONG time. Mastering this particular skill took a few months of that kind of practice, but after that I feel fingerpicking became totally easy and fun, and now it’s one of my biggest strengths as a guitar player. Putting in the work to make that part sound right has totally shaped how I write songs and play my instrument.
What is your biggest musical achievement?:
Getting accepted to the Berklee College of Music first as a vocalist, and later graduating as a guitar player.
Favorite thing about teaching?:
Finding out how each student learns and figuring out how to connect with them in their own way.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
It’s cliche, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes and ask questions. Learning an instrument can be intimidating; sometimes you need to ask about the stuff that seems obvious, sometimes you’re going to hit some wrong notes. That’s all part of getting good at your instrument.
Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
I sing, play guitar and write the songs for the band Ellen Siberian Tiger. Here’s our album: http://ellensiberiantiger.