What is the optimum age for a child to begin lessons?
The first stage in musical tuition is to provide a home environment in which a variety of music is played, in which parents sing to their children and in which dance and movement is encouraged. Children may also attend Colourstrings Kindergarten classes, if they are lucky enough to have one nearby. Angela holds classes in Streatham.
Parents looking for Suzuki instrumental tuition often apply when their children are very young. On the cello, fingers need some strength to hold down the string and it is not as easy to start at three as it is on the violin. The age of four works for very bright children and five is ideal. Older children and even adults can benefit from this method because it enables them to focus on technical issues without being distracted by the written page. Book 1 is packed with technical basics that will stand anyone in good stead. The role of the parent is paramount. The parent needs to attend the lessons and write very clear notes, he/she needs to be willing to learn the basics for him/herself and needs to practise every day with the child in a friendly and motivating way.
The reading of music is also encouraged by means of the Colourstrings method. The Colourstrings books teach all aspects of the theory of music through colours and teach the pupils to play in harmonics, which assists greatly with postural issues. The children love the books in which they can write their own music.
The first term is for the parents, in a specially designed course, which helps them to discover the difficulties for themselves and provides various techniques for practising with their children. During this time, the children will be given occasional games that can be played at home.
As the child is very young and has not yet become ambitious, it is possible to take the time required to establish a very sound technical base. Meanwhile the child will hear recordings at home of the pieces that he/she will learn. When the pieces of the technical jigsaw have been put together, the child will be able to play the first song – Twinkle, twinkle little star. The child becomes a Twinkler.
There are several variations to this song which teach different rhythms and bowing techniques. The child is happy to be familiar with the piece of music and this period is a good time to encourage good posture, quality of tone and intonation.
The following pieces are in books. At the end of Book 1, the child is ready to take the Grade 1 exam but only if desired. Book 1 establishes a good range of bowing techniques using first position. Angela's pupils generally achieve high distinctions in the ABRSM examinations.
Book 2 introduces shifting and uses four positions, while the pieces are all favourite tunes from well-known composers.
Book 3 introduces vibrato, more complex pieces and the shoulder positions.
By Book 5, the child is playing real cello repertoire rather than arrangements of tunes.
Gradually, double-stopping and thumb position are introduced and the child is welcome to work for the graded exams, which require all-round musicianship by including scales, aural tests and sight-reading in the syllabus.
As members of the London Suzuki Group, children will have the opportunity to take part in group lessons and in many different events. They may also be encouraged to attend the many courses available in the holidays and to take part in festivals.
The repertoire can be supplemented by additional material as desired and all pupils receive a thorough training in scales and arpeggios, sight reading, aural, phrasing and historical aspects of music, using the principles of Paul Harris' Simultaneous Learning.
Consultation lessons (Age 11-18)
Sometimes it is useful to get advice from another teacher on a one-off basis. For example, I have seen an 11 year old with pain in the neck and shoulders, or the parents might want to know in which direction to go. It is easier for someone who is detached from years of teaching a child, to see the whole picture.
Cello students (Age 18-25) wishing to develop their performance practice in private lessons or masterclasses
Angela often teaches post-graduates who wish to develop their baroque performance.
Teachers wishing to teach early style on modern instruments
Professional players who wish to develop their historical techniques
This tuition can take place as individual lessons or in workshop form. A range of activities can be used for teachers, who have not specialised in early music, to provide them with the information that they need to teach their own pupils.
Mature pupils benefit hugely by combining cello lessons with Alexander Technique lessons. See www.alexandertechniquesouthlondon.co.uk
Angela is a fully qualified member of STAT - The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique.
Groups can be formed from different types of student:
Several students or teachers with a common aim, playing repertoire of own choice
Chamber music coaching
A teacher with his/her pupils
Group lessons with children take place once a month on Sunday afternoons.
Larger groups and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in the following categories:
Conferences: recital or demonstration similar to 'A Tale of Five Cellos'
INSET days to include orchestral coaching, individual lessons and demonstration
Orchestral days for teachers
Talks for students or teachers
|© 2011-2012 Angela East|