Amy’s Teaching Philosophy for Website 2013
My goals for students include guiding cellists, violists da gamba, and pianists towards independent musical thinking, creative problem solving, and development of profound, meaningful, connected, expressive, committed execution of music, either written by a composer, or created by the performer.
I studied cello with Orlando Cole and his assistant Metta Watts from the age of 10 until graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1980. I transitioned to lessons exclusively with Mr. Cole by the time I was a sophomore in high school. Mr. Cole was so celebrated that when he died in 2010 at the age of 101, although he had lived his entire life in Philadelphia, he was given a memorial concert in Oakland for which I was invited to perform along with fifteen other of his former cello students.
With Mr. Cole, I began to learn how to play with physical ease, to move my left arm in a single line, and to hold my bow so that I would not create tension. In my professional life, I have studied this to a great extent, and have thought about how to play efficiently. I have never been sidelined by tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. I communicate what I have learned to my students so that they are able to play effortlessly. Although I am small in stature, I discovered how to play with a large sound and to have an easy facility throughout the entire instrument.
In lessons, I assign three or four basic things: a scale, finger exercises, etudes, and one or more pieces from the repertoire. Technique, in the true sense of the word, means the ability to hear a piece of music in your head and translate that aural image into a physical reality. The ability to play scales, exercises, and etudes is a preparation for technique. I learned this principle from two teachers who were not cellists, but a violinist and a singer/pianist.
Nearly all people can sing; those who are truly monotone speak in a monotone. When a student sings a phrase, it’s often the case that they sing in a natural, musically satisfying way. Sometimes, I can catch mistakes that students make in their playing by having them sing the passage in question. They may have the same difficulty with their voice that they encounter with their cello, gamba, or piano. Some students refuse to sing, and we work through that in various ways. If they can be coaxed to sing, something naturally beautiful will come out.
My extensive 30+ year performing career has taken me all over the world. I have played as a member of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and as assistant principal cellist of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. I have toured with the Israel Chamber Orchestra, I Solisti Veneti, La Nuova Orchestra Italiana, La Filarmonica de Valencia, Musica Angelica together with the Vienna Akademie Ensemble, Lux Musica, Taverner Players and Consort, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the City of Birmingham Touring Opera Company among many others. I have played under nearly every famous conductor and with many first class soloists. I have also performed numerous concertos as a soloist with orchestra.
There are several momentous occasions that have been so profound and deep that they entered my being and inspire my teaching. For example, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, I played under Zubin Mehta who conduced a moving tribute to the slain prime minister in front of a huge audience. Similarly, I had seen the great Jacqueline DuPre backstage at a concert in London in September 1987, only to play in her memorial concert two months later. I played Hatikvah (the Israeli national anthem) when the Israel Philharmonic performed it for the first time in Moscow and Warsaw, and also played to over one hundred thousand people at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. More recently, I played the St. Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach in the Musikverein in Vienna, where the audience knows the score and sings every chorale.