Chieko Arai ESTA Summer School 2018
I am so grateful for the financial support towards the course fee by the ESTA Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund Bursary sponsored by Universal Edition.
I attended the ESTA summer course 2018 following the completion of my master’s degree and 1-year course of LRAM at the Royal Academy of Music. Even though I am not experienced in teaching, I will be joining the teaching staff of the ‘Junior Academy First String Experience’ from this September. At the summer school, I was particularly interested in its focus on practical knowledge of string pedagogy as well as the opportunity to meet experienced teachers on the course with the same aim.
In an orchestral setting we explored ‘Wow’ by Sean Grisson, composed using rhythmic unison. It was an intriguing example of musical training enhancing listening skills of the whole ensemble. If I were to lead an orchestra with this piece, I would like to encourage pupils to listen to the lower strings, their own sound and that of their desk partner as I saw it was even a challenge for experienced course members to play and stay together.
A repeating theme on the course was pulse and rhythm. In the ‘basics’ class, given by Louis Pantillon, he emphasised that pupils should feel (experience) the pulse in their body through stepping, swaying, clapping, and bouncing a ball. He gave us an example of advanced and complex exercises; designed to prepare for being different in an ensemble and enjoying the conflict of movement. Two people would move/step in the same tempo but make a difference of fast/slow, soft/strong, and spikey/smooth body movements. This was a motivating idea for me and despite the challenge of explaining it to pupils simply enough, I felt that such activity would be really entertaining and rewarding for children. The principle I learnt was to teach actions more than academic musical terms and the importance of allowing pupils to experience through their body rather than only learning verbally.
The ‘Performing Psychology’ session analysed how we become judgemental and too self- critical and how we deal with stage fright. Mike Cunningham maintained that the more we are skilled, the more we are aware of what we are not doing well. The fear of performance tends to happen when we want our playing to be liked by others. However, the reality is that no one is universally liked as every person has different tastes based on such components as communication, technical ability, musical character and sound quality. I think that teaching performance technique in preparation for pupils’ exams or concerts should convey that ‘the goal’ is not ‘to be liked’ but rather should aim for musical excellence. It is, in fact, less risky in performance than aiming for technical perfection. It is an important part of a teacher’s responsibility to encourage those to look for artistic perspectives rather than only technical achievements.
The summer school gave me detailed and constructed knowledge of string pedagogy. After my attendance at the summer school, I am not feeling clueless anymore about how to get started in September. I am excited about my new career as a teaching musician and hope to develop my knowledge and skill further.