Music is language, a means of communicating those emotions that go beyond words, into the spiritual realm of being. Through performance, musicians express the deepest utterances of their soul, their innermost heartfelt emotions.
Because music goes beyond language we must first develop the ear in much the same way an infant uses their ear to gain speaking skills. Listening and training the ear to hear the subtleties of pitch, intonation, various tuning systems, sound quality and color, etc., is most important. From there, we train the hands to follow the ear by developing reliably solid basic technique.
When learning a language, developing a good vocabulary is fundamental for effective communication to occur. In viola playing, having a “good vocabulary”, or basic technique, is most essential because without absolute technical control it is difficult and frustrating to express musical intent clearly. A deficient technical command of the instrument can result in physical tension, stage anxiety, and injury. Musical intent coupled with ease of expression, is the ultimate goal in performance. Keeping this goal in the forefront of our mind, we develop the basic skills to achieve this end. In the left hand these basic skills include intonation, shifting, vibrato, articulation, rhythm, and coordination, while in the right hand basic skills involve unfaltering bow control over the basic strokes: legato, detache, martele, colle, spiccato, and combinations of these strokes. In our viola studio at CCM we cultivate these basic skills using exercises that were systematically organized by Dorothy DeLay, Masao Kawasaki, and Catharine Carroll. Emphasizing these fundamental skills is the precursor to and carries over into the scale systems, double-stopping, and etudes. Mastery of these basic techniques arms the performer with the necessary tools to convey to the audience their desired musical intent.
Each student is uniquely individual in every way. For example, each has their own skeletal structure, personality, musicality, etc. Our goal as teachers is to be as flexible as possible in our approach so to better address the needs of each individual student and to expand their creativity. Since no two students learn in the same way, it is not possible to approach each student with a “formula” approach, but as an individual to preserve their uniqueness.
Part of developing a students’ potential is to provide ample performance opportunity. At CCM we believe strongly in providing these opportunities to our students. We offer weekly studio class, orchestral repertoire class, guest master classes, chamber music competition, Cincinnati Chamber Circle, CCM Viola Consort, Scales Class, Bowing Class, Concerto competition, etc.
The experience and knowledge we impart on our students is structured in such a way that when they leave CCM they are self-sufficient; they become their own teacher. Ultimately, our endeavor is to assist students in developing the necessary skills to express themselves freely through the viola, to strive for excellence, and to value the process as much as the outcome.