Cello Performance, Peabody Conservatory
Music History, Temple University
Hello! I began playing the cello in 1980 at the age of 9 in the Fairfax County Public School System’s string program in Fairfax County Virginia. I grew up in a very musical household and always had a strong wish to play a musical instrument like my Dad, who is an accomplished guitarist and singer. I picked the cello because I love the low, human sounding range, and because the music teacher who demonstrated it played the theme from the Muppets, my favorite TV show at the time! I continued my studies in the National Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Fellowship Program with cellist, David Teie. In 1993 I graduated from the Peabody Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor’s Degree in Cello Performance with cellist, Stephen Kates and Baroque cellist, Anne Marie Morgan. In 1995 I graduated from Temple University with a Master’s Degree in Music History and studied with cellist, Jeffrey Solow and early musician Robert Weimkin. From 2011 – 2012 I had an Early Childhood Music apprenticeship with Dr. Sally Weaver of Sally’s Music Circle.
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I also play the guitar, sing and play a bit of keyboard. I’ve used these skills primarily as an Early Childhood music educator, in both Mommy & Me classes and daycare settings. I also performed on cello, guitar, keyboards and voice in several rock and alternative bands. I’ve played as a member of the bands Rachel’s, Matt Pond PA & Lewis & Clarke as well as guest recording and performing on many other rock albums. I have a lot of experience with live improvisation, both as a rock cellist and in collaboration with actors and dancers, particularly the SITI Company of New York City. I am also a baroque cellist and viola da gambist. This means I play 17th, 18th & early 19th century music on old instruments set up in the manner that people would have played them at the time. Stylistically it’s very different from modern playing. I’ve played with Philadelphia’s wonderful period baroque orchestra, Tempesta di Mare, for almost 20 years. It’s especially wonderful to play these old instruments in a town as historic as Philadelphia.
What are your personal goals as a musician?
As a musician, I try to cultivate a “gift” mentality – seeing musical performance as a gift or offering to others rather than as a self-interested pursuit. I strive to embody generosity, kindness & positivity in my roles as a teacher, mentor and colleague. I always try to encourage others in their love of music, their curiosity & experimentation, and in their efforts to improve themselves musically and as human beings.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
When I was 21 years old I came to Temple University for graduate school. At the time I was dealing with intense and painful tendonitis in my bow arm. I had been accepted to study with Jeffrey Solow, who is a real guru of the physical aspects of cello playing. Every day I worked on the concept of using weight, relaxation, and passive movement in my bow arm to help heal the injury. One day while observing the lesson of another student, I saw his bow arm shoulder drop, his arm aligned in a beautiful descent from shoulder to fingertips and the most gorgeous sound appeared. It was a Eureka moment for me, “THAT’S what Jeff’s been talking about,” I thought. I then went to the mirror in the practice room, explored, experimented, and then found it for myself. It was life changing – I’ve never had a problem in my bow arm (24 years!) since.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
My favorite bit of advice from my teacher, David Teie was – “to play fast, you have to be able to play slow.” It taught me patience and a meditative, relaxed way of practice. There’s no way to skip ahead….in fact, why would you want to? If a technique can’t be executed accurately at a slow pace, we’ll never be able to play it quickly. In a sense, it’s a little like Tai Chi – all those beautiful gentle forms, which once learned, comprise a powerful martial art. Through this type of practice one can cultivate a powerful and solid technique that then allows for musical freedom.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
One of my biggest musical achievements was programming and performing a chamber concert of 20th & 21st century American chamber music featuring the concept of Alone/Together. I used the music as a means to understand our interconnectedness as human beings. The aim of the concert was to demonstrate how teachers, composers, instrument makers, bow makers, audience, colleagues, family, venue staff, etc – all contribute in order to make the musical moment appear. Even when I perform “solo,” I am never really alone.
Favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite thing about teaching is seeing a student grow in confidence and familiarity on the instrument and in their love of music. I also love the “Aha!” moments where, after some practice & thought, a difficult technique or concept clicks! I would encourage anyone who “always wanted” to study an instrument to do it! It’s never too late.