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Digital Subscriptions > The Strad > June 2019 > BLUE SKY TEACHING

BLUE SKY TEACHING

String tutors are always looking for ways to help students develop or refine their technique, and some use unconventional approaches. Judith Kogan spoke with three such teachers, all based in North America and whose unique ideas are achieving significant results
Natasha Brofsky (centre) takes her cello technique class at the Juilliard School
BROFSKY PHOTO MIZUKI HAYAKAWA. WEILERSTEIN PHOTOS ANDREW HURLBUT/NEC

DONALD WEILERSTEIN – VIOLIN

Reading sections of lesson transcripts, you might think it’s a yoga or ballet class – or maybe a voice lesson:

‘Before you start, feel the spine move.’

‘And the eyes.’

‘Feel the lift in the spine.’

‘The whole thing up, to the top of the head.’

‘You want ecstatic energy from your spine through your body.’

‘Feel the sacrum, the whole pelvis vibrating.’

‘The sitting bones should feel alive down to the floor.’

‘Sing through your body.’

‘Sing like you’re the music.’

‘In the rest, do you feel large and lifted?’

Violinist Donald Weilerstein’s teaching is based on awareness of how energy flows through the body. His approach to technique is less about how to execute an action than about where to direct thoughts in order to release tension, thereby making a passage easier. These are not things you hear every day from a violin teacher.

‘It’s very much a mind-over-matter approach, which I found incredibly helpful, ’ says former student Alexi Kenney. ‘Weilerstein does talk about specific aspects of technique, but for him it’s more about the big picture and using imagination and creativity to find a technique that works for your physique and particular instrument.’

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About The Strad

We conclude our investigation of Stradivari’s moulds and examine some radical teaching methods. Vadim Gluzman, Philip Dukes and Matthew Barley are interviewed and there’s our annual Accessories supplement, featuring carbon fibre bows, wolf eliminators, mutes and lots more.