Phil Darcy                  ESTA SS Report 2019


I recently attended the ESTA Summer school in Chichester. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet other string teachers and learn from each other, as well as the wealth of classes on offer, and to enjoy some marvellous concerts. I am extremely grateful for the bursary I received from the Nannie Jamieson Nutshell fund, sponsored by Lark, towards my attendance.

Each day began with a yoga class, tailored for musicians, led by Jane Fenton (I bet you didn’t know that ‘pedagogy’ could rhyme with ‘yogi’). After a short break the two Joannes’ (May and Erwin) shared their experience of Paul Rolland’s pioneering work in string teaching. It was a great privilege to meet and learn from two people who studied with Paul Rolland himself, and I was not alone in feeling these sessions could have been much longer, and perhaps continued into the afternoon. Further classes during the day included a session with Paul Harris, whose approach and extensive range of books on teaching have been an inspiration to many. Evening concerts included fine performances of the Barber and Dvorak American quartets given by the Artesians.

The following is a very brief summary of some key elements from the Rolland basics sessions as I perceived them, if you haven’t watched the films already I would recommend doing so. The goal of free movement and the release of tension is naturally paramount.

Bilateral and unilateral movement; we practised using bilateral movement in the flying pizzicato, shifting the weight from the left to right foot as the pupil plucks the string. The teacher holds the scroll to support the instrument. By contrast, a unilateral movement would be appropriate in slow bowing.

A strategy I particularly liked; play a scale 2 notes at a time, swinging the instrument and bow out for two counts in the gaps.

We looked at many ways of working on the early bow hold, including the use of a straw to practice with (if the fingers are tense, they will crush the straw). A ‘pinkie house’ for the early stages. Ways to encourage flexibility of the fingers, hold the bow as high as possible, then go higher using the fingers; rest the bow on your knee, then write your name on the ceiling.

The whole event appeared to be held together by two unsung heroines. Sheila Holdsworth and Julia Atkinson, who worked tirelessly in the background throughout and capped it all with an hilarious double act hosting the last night party. The experience would have not been the same without them.

A guiding principle I will take with me; don’t talk more than necessary and don’t repeat yourself!


I’d personally love to see Geza Szilvay doing some Colourstrings sessions next time.

I was not alone in finding it hard to sit through the ‘other’ morning session, which was a great lesson in how to lose a room full of people by talking about how wonderful you and your books are for almost an hour.


Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund