My name is Lauren Blackwell and I am a classical cellist based in Philadelphia. When I was in the 8th grade, I started lessons at the Settlement Music School with Christine Danoff. Later I went to West Chester University of Pennsylvania and studied with Dr. Ovidiu Marinescu and Jesús Morales. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance, Cello in December of 2020. I am currently taking lessons with Gloria dePasquale, a former member of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Along with classical music I frequently perform and record in genres such as spirituals/hymns, R&B, gospel and jazz. I have performed on WRTI/NPR Jazz Live Sessions with the group EVER Ensemble. In 2017 I traveled to Puerto Rico to study with Luis Miguel Rojas, the Principal Cellist of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. While there I participated in the annual cello festival, Cellistiko. I am currently a freelance cellist and teacher in the Philadelphia area.
While at West Chester University, I started my private teaching career. I taught students from beginners to advanced players. Many of my students were involved in a school orchestra, so they enjoyed working on orchestra passages, audition repertoire, as well as music solely for the cello. I love working with my students to help them know that whatever difficult music they’re working on, it will one day be easy for them to play! Remember to take it one note at a time!
When did you begin playing Cello, and why?
I began playing the cello in the 6th grade! My school was offering group lessons in orchestral instruments and since my older brother chose the cello, I chose the cello too! I began private lessons at Settlement Music School when I was in the 8th grade and have continued to play ever since!
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I started playing the piano when I was five and stopped playing in middle school in order to pursue the cello.
What are your personal goals as a musician?
My personal goals are to continue growing as a cellist! I’m currently taking lessons so that I can continue developing my skill as a musician and help to pass that knowledge to my students.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
I’ll always remember when I first started playing the cello, the notes didn’t make sense to me. I was falling behind my other cellist friends so I decided I wanted to understand how to play the notes on the page! I took my cello and music home, sat down, and started writing fingerings over every note. That day I practiced hard and finally understood what the music was telling my fingers to do!
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
My favorite piece of advice from my current teacher is to practice your piece only as fast as you can play the most difficult part. That way of practicing is great motivation to get the most difficult parts figured out sooner!
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
My most challenging moments come when I’m learning something new or a concept that I don’t understand right away. When I first started playing the cello, I didn’t understand which fingers to put down for which notes. What helps me in those difficult moments is asking for help and practicing the most difficult things first!
What is your biggest musical achievement?
My biggest musical achievements are in the little moments. It’s when I’ve been struggling with a difficult passage for weeks and then I finally get it. Or when I perform for an audience even though I have stage fright. It’s those little wins that mean the most to me and I hope to instill that same joy of the little victories in my students!
Favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite thing about teaching is that I learn from my students just as much as my students learn from me! Each student brings their own unique point of view of the world and music that inevitably teaches me something new about them and myself. Each opportunity to connect with students and meet them where they’re at is what drives my work and brings me joy!
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Take it one note at a time! We all start as beginners in whatever we do. It’s consistency that will take us far and help us to learn the music we want to play!