I recently attended the ESTA Summer School for the first time. I am so appreciative that I was able to attend – the course met all my expectations and many more.
Cello Basics with James Halsey has increased my awareness of what makes good technique. My method before was flawed as I could only analyse my own technique and translate this to the pupil’s body. However, if a pupil had a differently proportioned body, I did not know how to help them. James Halsey’s approach is to find the natural resting position of the hand and body, and then to transfer this onto the cello. I will now be more conscious of how I teach the left-hand finger position. Using James’s example, I will get pupils to shake out their arms with their fingers pointing downwards to find the rest position and then get them to place their hand on the fingerboard. I hope this will create a softer hand shape.
I have also picked up lots of tips from Kay Tucker on how to teach young children. Kay brought in various props that she uses to sensitise a child’s fingers and help them feel softness. I have already made a list of props to add to my teaching bag that I will take into primary schools with me. This list includes a clothes peg to help strengthen fingers, a little felt toy to put in the palm of their bow hand, a shaker to help practise vibrato, and a teddy bear to slide up and down the strings to get the sensation of shifting.
Kathy Blackwell reminded me of the power of non-verbal communication, particularly when teaching a group. I loved the warm-up that she did with a fun backing track. We got our instruments into playing position and then tapped the strings, wiggled our thumbs and slid up and down the instrument in time with the music. I will certainly be using this warm up when I teach First Access classes.
I loved the Dalcroze sessions in the morning and it has prompted me to make a bigger effort to incorporate movement into my lessons. I will now add to my repertoire of games an activity that Sian Davies modelled. She made us bounce a ball on the downbeat while she played various metres on the piano. This could help with ABRSM aural examples when the pupils have to show a stronger beat when clapping in time with the music. Then, she visually represented the down beat in 4/4 by using one large ball and then three tennis ball. She pointed to each ball in turn while we clapped the rhythm. She then removed one ball each in turn so to represent rests. I think this method could really help some of my pupils who struggle when listening for how many beats in a bar in the aural test.
I would like to thank The Nannie Jamison Nutshell Fund, sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld Vienna, for their financial support, which enabled me to attend the course.